Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - It was a tragic end to a day of demonstrations as an elderly male protester was pushed by Buffalo Police before falling backwards and slamming his head on the concrete sidewalk in front of city hall Thursday evening.
The 75 year old man was taken to ECMC for serious injuries and now two officers have been suspended for their actions leading up to the incident. He is currently in serious but stable condition.
It all occurred as Buffalo Police were sweeping the area of a small group of demonstrators that remained after the 8pm curfew.
Prior to the incident, the man, identified by Dave Greber of WIVB TV as 75 year old Martin Gugino, could be seen facing officers as they were slowly moving toward demonstrators and multiple video accounts show the officers pushed the demonstrator before he fell. Emergency medical attention was administered to the victim, who was conscious and visibly bleeding, and taken via ambulance for treatment.
An initial police statement said the man "tripped and fell" after a skirmish with police, but video shows only Gugino approaching officers. After he is pushed to the ground, officers continue to walk past him.
The Erie County District Attorney is now investigating the incident.
US Attorney JP Kennedy issued this statement: "Last night, after seeing the video of the incident occurring in front of City Hall, I was concerned and immediately contacted both BPD Commissioner Lockwood and FBI Acting SAC Guyton. The officers involved have been suspended pending further investigation. On behalf of the entire law enforcement community, I offer our sincere best wishes to the injured gentleman, as we hope and pray for his speedy and complete recovery. As a community and as a nation, we must resist the urge to react impetuously. Rather, as we struggle with the disturbing events depicted on that video, I suggest that we reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union issued this statement.
As a result of Thursday's demonstrations, four people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges for blocking traffic in the Square and a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct.
The tragic end to a day of demonstrations came after a small contingent gathered on the steps of Buffalo city hall agreed with police to peacefully leave at 8:05pm. As most protesters slowly exited the sidewalk in front of city hall, a handful of angry demonstrators were shouting obscenities at one another and refusing to leave when Buffalo Police began to make their slow advance across Niagara Square to clear the sidewalk of those remaining.
Demonstrations were active in Niagara Square most of the afternoon as a rally was held that featured Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown at one point who issued an order for Buffalo Police to cease any use of 'choke-hold' tactics.
Protesters left Niagara Square during the dinner hour and marched up the streets of Allentown and winding through the Elmwood and Delaware districts before ending their formal gathering with an eight minute moment of silence in Johnson Park.
Protesters march through the streets of Allentown in Buffalo
Protesters gather in Johnson Park in Buffalo after marching the streets of Allentown
It was following the Johnson Park demonstration when some of the protesters made their way back to city hall in advance of the 8pm curfew.