As controversial footage emerged last week of Martin Gugino being shoved to the floor by police during a Black Lives Matter protest, President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that it “could be a set up,” saying that the 75-year-old was possibly just an “ANTIFA provocateur”.
Friends of Gugino, however, have described the former computer scientist as a practicing Catholic who has devoted much of his retirement to charitable causes, with Daniel Burke of CNN noting that, rather than being a member of a militant anti-fascist network, Gugino, in fact, “has worked with the Plowshares and Catholic Workers, the movement started by Dorothy Day”.
After Gugino was pushed backwards onto the sidewalk by police in Buffalo, New York, blood can be seen seeping from the protestor’s head as police continue to process forward. Gugino was later admitted to intensive care at the Erie County Medical Center but his condition has since stabilized.
The two Buffalo police officers involved were suspended without pay and subsequently charged with second-degree assault. Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans said on local station WGRZ that all 57 members of the Buffalo police’s emergency response team resigned from the team “in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders”.
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown released a statement saying that he was “deeply disturbed” by the video of the incident, but he added that the protestor was an “agitator” who had refused to leave the area “numerous” times.
However, when Trump made the claim on Tuesday that Martin Gugino “fell harder than pushed” and was aiming a “scanner” at police, he drew much bipartisan criticism, with Republican Senator Mitt Romney calling the accusations “shocking”.
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?
Gugino’s lawyer replied: “We are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later gave support to the President’s comments by noting that Gugino had written “some profanity-laden tweets about police officers.”
Both Gugino’s Twitter account and his YouTube channel have been taken down in response to the scrutiny, but his personal blog is still live, which includes the by-line “Four arrests, no convictions” and where he raises concerns about numerous political issues, including climate change and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Mark Colville of the Amistad Catholic Worker worked for years campaigning for the closure of Guantanamo Bay alongside Gugino, who he said would drive six-and-a-half-hours to help prepare and serve meals at the Amistad house of hospitality. Speaking to Religion News Service, Colville said that “Martin has a passion for social justice,” adding that when “he sees wrong he wants to be involved in making it right.”
In a 2015 guest blogpost criticising President Barak Obama’s foreign policy and Guantanamo Bay, the author biography notes Gugino’s diverse list of “heroes,” which includes Jesus Christ; Fr Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the controversial priest-turned-politician who espoused liberation theology; and Fr Jerzy Popiełuszko, the martyred opponent of communist-rule in Poland.
Gugino’s socially-oriented Christian beliefs are similarly reflected in his contribution to a newsletter from Jericho Road, a community health clinic in Buffalo. There, Gugino explains why he had donated to the group: “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty.”