US President Donald Trump (File photo)
WASHINGTON: A 75-year old peace activist who was shoved so hard by police in Buffalo that his head hit the pavement and bled profusely could be an “ANTIFA provocateur” who faked the fall, US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that evoked universal revulsion even as the country grappled with calls to defang and reform, if not altogether disband, the country’s aggressive and militarized law enforcement personnel.
Video of the incident showed Martin Gugino, who locals say is a pacifist who works on affordable housing for the poor, approach on-duty police officers in Niagara Square during BLM protests last Thursday. Two officers, later identified as Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, appear to shove him, causing him to stagger back and crack his head on the pavement. The police keep on walking even as a puddle of blood forms next to his head.
While Gugino is recovering from injuries after hospitalisation, the two officers were suspended and charged over the weekend with second degree assault, one of several punitive measures by elected city officials at rampaging cops over the past two weeks. But 57 of their colleagues resigned in protest from Buffalo’s emergency response team, even though New York governor Andrew Cuomo said video of the incident appeared to indicate criminal liability on part of the police.
On Tuesday, Trump stepped into the incident. “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?” he tweeted, seeming to endorse conspiracy theories from a right wing media outlet about one of the incidents during a Black Lives Matter protests that highlighted strong arm methods of police did not spare even the aged white men and women.
Trump, who has positioned himself as a “law and order president” in echoes of Richard Nixon’s strategies during the 1960s civil rights movement, has repeatedly praised men and women in uniform and rejected calls for disbanding the police. “You eliminate police officers, you will have chaos, crime, and anarchy in the streets,” he said through his spokesperson, retweeting Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who said “Defunding Police would be good for Robbers & Rapists.”
“Abolishing police would only take us farther away from the safety, justice, and equal protection of the laws that every single American deserves. Minneapolis cannot really think that arts programs and social workers can make law enforcement obsolete,” said Mitch McConnell, Trump’s senatorial sidekick.
While even presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has indicated he is against rolling up local police departments like Minneapolis has pledged to do, some experts say previous such efforts on a smaller scale has shown success.
Camden, New Jersey, which was routinely named one of the most violent cities in the US, cut its city crime by nearly half after disbanding its corrupt police department and replacing it with “community-oriented policing,” that values partnership and problem-solving over retributive violence and punishment.
But Trump and his political allies believe cops are being demonized and there are only a small number of rogue policemen, even though recent incidents are resulting in loss of support among minorities (which was always low) and among the 65+ voters. Such polls irritate the President, who believes they are all faked and that he is set for a second term on the strength of his economic performance and tough approach.
“Trump Better Than Biden On Economic Growth, 55% to 34%. That’s all? Who are the 34%?” the President asked on Tuesday after dismissing national polls that show him trailing Biden by anywhere from 5 to 14 points. Some polls are showing Trump starting to lose support even among his white base.
Meanwhile, George Floyd, the 48-year old man whose death under the knee of a white police officer exposed the unending racism in the US, is being laid to rest today in a private ceremony in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Biden who met with Floyd’s family Monday will not attend the service but will provide a video message.