By10 June 2020
President Donald Trump tweeted an attack Tuesday against Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old peace and Palestine rights activist violently hurled to the ground by two Buffalo police officers during a 4 June protest against the racist police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd.
Those officers have been suspended without pay and face felony assault charges.
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2020
Citing the far-right outlet One America News Network (OANN) – earlier published online by The Conservative Treehouse website – Trump said Gugino might be “an ANTIFA provocateur” and claimed that the peace activist was aiming a scanner at the officers.
— WBFO (@WBFO) June 5, 2020
The President of the United States is calling Martin Gugino, “an Antifa provacateur.”
Martin Gugino remains hospitalized; the two officers who shoved him have been charged with assault. pic.twitter.com/TBSDWJc4Ux
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) June 9, 2020
Trump asserted that Gugino “fell harder than was pushed.” The president seems bizarrely to be insinuating that Gugino intentionally injured himself.
Graphic video shows Gugino being shoved, staggering backwards and then falling and hitting the ground. Blood quickly pools under his head. He was clearly holding only a mobile phone in his right hand and a helmet in his left.
The officers did not immediately stop to render aid.
The human rights activist was hospitalized, where he remains in “serious but stable condition” according to his lawyer Kelly Zarcone.
On Tuesday, Gugino himself texted USA Today, “No comment other than Black lives matter. Just out of the ICU. Should recover eventually.”
Had there not been video evidence, police may have gotten away with their initial lie that Gugino “tripped and fell.”
Trump, in voicing what The Hill termed an “unfounded conspiracy theory,” mused whether Gugino’s actions could be a “set up.”
Trump said last month that the US government would be “designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization” – an apparent attempt to find a scapegoat for the widespread protests in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
ANTIFA is not a single organization however, but a loose collection of anti-fascist activists who draw inspiration from the similarly named group that resisted the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. There is no evidence that ANTIFA activists are significantly responsible for the massive protests that have continued for more than a week.
Yet Trump’s effort to demonize opposition to fascism and Nazism is in keeping with the tacit support and praise he has long given to white supremacists.
The president almost certainly lacks the legal authority to outlaw ANTIFA, any more than he could designate golfers or bird watchers to be an “organization,” let alone terrorists.
Here's the first half of the batshit OANN segment Trump just tweeted. It alleges the 75 year old man assaulted by Buffalo police officers was an antifa operative, based on a report from Conservative Treehouse. pic.twitter.com/CeMVyJcoh8
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) June 9, 2020
Republican National Committee spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington briefly helped tout a similar conspiracy that claimed Gugino had used “prop blood attached to an elaborate device.” She later deleted the tweet.
"Republican National Committee spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington posted an even more elaborate conspiracy theory about Gugino’s fall on her Twitter account, linking to a baseless article claiming Gugino was using prop blood attached to an elaborate device" https://t.co/IWfpJE3dYL
— Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) June 9, 2020
The next five months prior to the 3 November presidential election are likely to see similar ugliness intended to incite outrage and solidify Trump’s base.
Gugino’s lawyer rejected the president’s lies about her client, as did many public figures.
The President must stop spreading lies about #MartinGugino, a peace activist and volunteer at the Catholic Worker. "Gugino made multiple trips from Buffalo to New Haven–a 6 and a half-hour drive–to help prepare and serve meals at Amistad House." https://t.co/Dm50de2GW7
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) June 9, 2020
No one should be assaulted by the police in this way. But for the record, this 75 year old is a pacifist Catholic Worker who dedicated his life to nonviolence, serving the poor, living the Sermon on the Mount & fighting for justice in the spirit of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. https://t.co/UrRTkQed1w
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) June 9, 2020
President Trump is now accusing Martin Gugino, the 75 year old white man pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo, NY, of faking his fall and being a member of ANTIFA.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) June 9, 2020
The most recent post on his Facebook page – prior to the police attack – directed readers to a news article about Israeli limitations on water for Paletinians in the West Bank.
As of Tuesday, Gugino’s Facebook page is no longer accessible. It was accessible over the weekend.
By pursuing this campaign against a peace activist, and directly naming him in his tweet, Trump may well be further endangering his life.
Trump has at the very least signaled his position in the implicit war against rights activists being waged by the Buffalo police department, and police across the country.
More than 50 officers resigned from Buffalo’s “emergency response team” to show support for their colleagues Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, the men charged with assaulting Gugino.
Buffalo police officers applauded by their colleagues as they leave the courthouse pic.twitter.com/t9DGC07ijZ
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) June 6, 2020
A large crowd of the officers’ colleagues applauded the two men over the weekend as they left the courthouse after pleading not guilty.
Their applause sent a strong signal of their disrespect for human rights and the well-being of Gugino.
They are cheering physical abuse against the public they are sworn to protect.
Between the racist killing of so many Black people, most recently George Floyd, and the police applause for Gugino’s assailants, it is little wonder that demands to “Defund the police” and dramatically rethink approaches to public safety are sweeping the country.
Police officers have long used brutal measures against African Americans.
Now Trump is signaling an expansion of this racist war. He is additionally targeting the left, including a septuagenarian peace activist.
#Breaking The Buffalo Police Commissioner has suspended Bob Marth, a man who worked as police dispatcher. The suspension comes after Marth made the following comments on Facebook pic.twitter.com/V4lSf5rz8f
— Ali Ingersoll (@Ali_IngNews) June 9, 2020