The interim bishop of Buffalo paid tribute to a Catholic peace activist who was hospitalized after an encounter with police last week.
“We stand with all who demonstrate peacefully and speak out against abuse of power and injustice of every kind,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, apostolic administrator of the diocese of Buffalo, said on Wednesday evening regarding the case of Martin Gugino, a 75 year-old man who friends say is a peace activist in the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day.
“We honor Mr. Gugino’s witness and service to the Catholic Worker Movement,” Scharfenberger said in a statement provided to CNA.
Three of the officers moved towards Gugino and two of them—one with a baton—pushed Gugino away. He fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete, and immediately started bleeding from his ear. One of the officers appeared to stop to look over Gugino, but was promptly moved along by another officer.
According to the initial description of the encounter by Buffalo Police, Gugino “tripped and fell.” Video provided by WBFO, however, showed the officer shoving Gugino, who fell backwards and then hit his head and lay motionless.
Two officers involved in the incident have since been suspended from the police force and charged with second-degree assault. After the officers were suspended last week, all 57 officers of the department’s Emergency Response Team resigned in protest of the suspensions.
On Tuesday, President Trump implied that Gugino could be a member of the group Antifa, an anti-fascist protest movement which he has said he plans to declare a terrorist organization.
Trump had tweeted that Gugino “could be an ANTIFA provocateur” and that he could have used his phone “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?” the president tweeted.
In addition to his reported involvement in Catholic groups, the Washington Post reported that Gugino was a member of the group PUSH Buffalo, which advocates for affordable housing.
In his statement on Wednesday, Bishop Scharfenberger said that Christians must “work towards bringing about truth, justice, and peace.”
“Our prayers are with Martin Gugino for his full recovery, and also for his family who have had to confront this terrible ordeal with him,” the bishop said.