The 75-year-old protester who was pushed to the ground as a line of police in riot gear were clearing the front of Buffalo Hall on Thursday night just after curfew is Martin Gugino, a longtime peace activist from Amherst.
"He’s a gentle person who really believes that he must stand up for what he thinks is right," said his friend Terrence Bisson, who has worked with Gugino on Latin American issues through the Western New York Peace Center.
"That’s why he went to the demonstration. He would never resist physically any kind of orders," Bisson told The Buffalo News on Friday. "He’s a bit frail, not because of his age. He has some health problems."
The incident has drawn international attention. A video taken by a WBFO reporter of the incident posted to Twitter has been viewed more than 81 million times as of Tuesday. Two Buffalo police officers who were part of the Emergency Response Team were suspended without pay and charged Saturday with felony counts of second-degree assault. Also all 57 members of the ERT quit from the unit Friday after the police union said the administration won't back its officers and the union would no longer cover costs of legal defenses of ERT and SWAT members in relation to the protests going forward.
Gugino's friend, Mark Colville of New Haven, Conn., said he talked Tuesday morning to Gugino, who remains hospitalized at Erie County Medical Center.
"He's been removed from the ICU [intensive care unit]," said Colville, an activist himself. "He thinks he's going to be in the hospital at least another week. He's in a lot of pain and having trouble concentrating. He said they're expecting him to make a full recovery in about five weeks."
Colville said Gugino didn't tell him what his diagnosis was. Colville is part of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, a group of Catholic peace activists who broke into a nuclear submarine base in George in 2018. Colville was convicted in the case and is awaiting sentencing.
Gugino grew up in Buffalo and moved to Cleveland, where he worked in computer technology, before returning to Western New York. Here, he has been involved in a broad array of issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to climate change and Guantanamo. He had a YouTube channel which had 35 subscribers as of Friday in which he discussed such issues.
It has since been taken down along with his Twitter account which has drawn intense scrutiny.
On June 3, the day before the pushing incident, Gugino retweeted Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of the Parkland school shootings who has herself become an activist. She wrote "(expletive) the police." And he commented on the retweet the same words. The phrase has been repeatedly used during the protests here in Buffalo and across the nation. Gugino's Twitter account was taken down as of Tuesday.
Bisson said about the tweet: "He was more likely to echo something someone said. ... It was atypical," Bisson said. "Like an answer to a cry started up in a protest."
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