By JILL COLVIN and CAROLYN THOMPSON
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is pressing his “law and order” message and siding with police over protesters by advancing an unfounded conspiracy theory about a 75-year-old protester in New York who was pushed down by officers.
He’s tweeting without evidence that the confrontation may have been a “set up.”
Trump is attempting to cast doubt on video showing Buffalo police shoving the man, Martin Gugino, who fell backward and hit his head on the sidewalk.
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
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.
There is no evidence to suggest that anything of the sort took place. Trump was referencing a report on One America News Network, a far-right news channel that he often praises.
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.
PHOTO: MIKE DESMOND/WBFO