Fifty-seven police officers in Buffalo, New York, have resigned from the force’s emergency response team following the suspension of two of their colleagues who allegedly pushed a 75-year-old protester to the ground, a source close to the situation said on Friday.
An investigation is underway in a protest incident Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.” The man was seriously injured.
Video of the demonstration Thursday shows a row of officers walking toward the man and two pushing him. His head bleeds onto the sidewalk as officers walk past him, some looking down at him.
The demonstrators in Niagara Square were, like those across the country, calling for racial justice after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
The 57 officers resigned from the emergency unit but not from the force. The Buffalo mayor’s office told CNN that the 57 members that resigned from the unit make up the entire active emergency response team.
A few members of the unit are out currently and are not included in the 57 that resigned, according to the mayor’s office.
“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans told WGRZ on Friday. WKBW also reported news of the resignations.
The man’s identity, Martin Gugino, was confirmed by Cuomo’s office. Gugino is hospitalized in serious but stable condition, authorities said.
An attorney representing Gugino released a statement saying Gugino is “alert and oriented” and described him as a longtime peaceful protester and human rights advocate.
“Mr. Gugino requests privacy for himself and his family as he recovers,” said Kelly V. Zarone. “He appreciates all of the well wishes he has received and requests that any further protests continue to be peaceful.”
Megan Toufexis, Gugino’s niece, told CNN that her uncle attended the protest Thursday to discuss First Amendment rights with police.
Protests in the city continued into the evening Friday.