President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the 75-year-old protester in Buffalo, New York, who was pushed down by police officers may have been a “set up," adding that he may have been an “ANTIFA provocateur” and “fell harder than pushed.”
Trump, who has called himself “your president of law and order,” was once again siding firmly with police over the protesters who have taken to the streets across the country.
With his tweet, Trump attempted to cast doubt on video showing Buffalo police shoving the man, who fell backward and hit his head on the sidewalk. He was seen bleeding from his head as officers walk away.
Two Buffalo police officers have been charged with second-degree assault for the incident and could face prison sentences of up to seven years if convicted. They have pleaded not guilty.
The video is one of several that have emerged in recent weeks showing police using seemingly excessive force against protesters who are demanding justice and racial equality following the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.
“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump wrote. “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?”
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
Trump was referencing a report on One America News Network, a far-right news channel that he often praises.
As he has tried to malign violent protesters as “radical-left, bad people” engaging in domestic terrorism, Trump has repeatedly invoked the label “antifa," an umbrella term for leftist militants bound more by belief than organizational structure.
There have been violent acts, including property destruction and theft. Police officers and protesters have been seriously injured and killed. But federal law enforcement officials have offered little evidence that antifa-aligned protesters could be behind a movement that has appeared nearly simultaneously in hundreds of cities and towns in all 50 states since Floyd’s death.
Gugino, who is out of the intensive care unit but remains hospitalized, has been described by friends as a retiree and veteran peace activist driven by his faith and a desire for social justice. He is involved with the Western New York Peace Center and Latin American Solidarity Committee, said Vicki Ross, the center’s executive director.