All 57 members of a police tactical unit in Buffalo have resigned from their team to protest against the suspension of two colleagues who were filmed shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground, officials of the northern New York city said on Friday.
Two members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team were suspended on Thursday and are being investigated after a local radio station released video of the incident involving the protester, Martin Gugino.
The video, which has been viewed more than 70 million times, shows the white-haired Gugino approaching a line of officers in riot gear. One officer pushes him with a baton and a second one with his hand. He falls, a crack is heard and blood trickles from his head, as officers walk by his still body.
Local media quoted Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans as saying the officers were doing their job, and that their colleagues on the response team had resigned from the special unit to protest against their treatment.
Earlier on Friday, Kait Munro, a spokeswoman for the local county’s district attorney, said the two officers were under investigation for potential criminal liability in connection with Thursday evening’s incident outside city hall.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told a news conference on Friday that contingency plans were in place to address any policing issues due to the resignations and he said state troopers were embedded with Buffalo police to shore up their operations.
“I can say that Buffalo will be safe this weekend,” he said.
Brown said Gugino had been “asked to leave numerous times” from the area because of the city’s curfew.
Prior to the incident “there were conflicts between protesters,” Brown said.
“There was a danger of fights breaking out between protesters, and the police felt it was very important to clear that scene for the safety of protesters.”