Victim of police shove a veteran activist

Martin Gugino, 75, is no stranger to protest politics, often demonstrating against torture and militarization of the police

The protestor seen being shoved by two Buffalo Police officers is Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old long-time activist, known by many in the community.

“He would want this information to get out so the story is more than ‘an elderly man was pushed down,’” said Terrance Bisson, a friend and activist with the Latin American Solidarity Committee. “He stands for something.” 

Gugino is said to be in stable but serious condition at Erie County Medical Center. 

“It would be typical of him to be speaking with someone, asking questions about why was this being done when it doesn’t have to be done,” Bisson said. 

Gugino is seen on the video taken by WBFO, walking toward the line of police just after the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect. As Gugino approaches police, two officers push him back. He falls and hits his head on the ground. Blood is immediately seen coming out of his right ear. 

“He wouldn’t be a person who would be shouting at someone or acting aggressively toward anyone, so for him to be pushed over, shoved to the ground and left lying there is a terrible thing,” Bisson said.

A Buffalo native, Gugino spent most of his professional career in Cleveland working with database technology, according to Bisson. After retiring, he relocated back to Western New York around ten years ago.      

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Gugino is a long-time activist and member of the Latin American Solidarity Committee. 

“When he came here he decided he would stand and attend and be a vigil person, a person who testifies to what he believes in,” Bisson said. 

He is against torture and police militarization, according to his friends. 

“This is the problem with militarizing police,” said Vicki Ross, the executive director of the Western New York Peace Center and a friend of Gugino. “They get in these formations and mindsets and all rational thinking is out the door. We need better training so they realize they can just arrest him. They could’ve just arrested him. They didn’t have to push him.” ‬

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Gugino has been arrested four times, but never convicted, according to his website. Included are arrests in Orange County in 2009, at the White House in 2012 and 2013, and in 2016 at the U.S. Capitol. Bisson said they were all likely rallies against torture.    

The 75-year-old from Amherst is a fighter for more than injustice — he has also been battling prostate cancer and receiving care at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, according to his friends and his blog. 

Bisson said Gugino is somewhat private about that part of his life but did mention it a few times. While he has relatives in the area, he does not have a partner or any children. 

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He enjoys jokes and thought-provoking conversations, according to Bisson. 

“In every photo I have of him, he’s almost always smiling and deep in thought,” Bisson said. “His sense of humor is very striking. He speaks his mind and asks questions — the right, hard questions, because he really wants change.” 

As far as a response to what happened to him, Bisson said he thinks his friend wants people to continue voicing their opinions on issues he is passionate about which include climate change, police militarization and torture.

“It’s too bad that only tragedies bring this discourse to the public eye,” Bisson said.

Read more of our reporting on police misconduct