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'Toxic Culture' of Police Departments Decried After 57 Buffalo Officers Resign in Support of Two in Unit Who Attacked Elderly Man

"So is 57 officers resigning at once just a few bad apples?"

Police officers in Buffalo, New York walk by the motionless body of 75-year-old Martin Gugino as he bleeds from his ear after being attack attacked by officers during a protest on June 5, 2020. (Photo: Screengrab/WBFO)

Fifty-seven officers in the Buffalo Police Department's Emergency Response Team resigned Friday from their positions on the unit in support of two of their colleagues who were suspended for shoving an elderly man onto the ground during a protest Thursday, putting him in the hospital.

"The cops who are resigning over this are proving they shouldn't have been on the force in the first place," tweeted CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair. "I hope many more of them resign. And soon."

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, the department's AFL-CIO-affiliated union, claimed in a statement announcing the mass resignation that the two officers caught on camera shoving 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground with no provocation were only following orders.

It's unclear what orders led to the unprovoked assault, after which Gugino lay motionless on the ground, blood pouring out of his ear. 

"This is an example of officers doing exactly what they're supposed to," union president John Evans told the Investigative Post Friday.

Gugino, who is undergoing chemotherapy, is in serious but stable condition at a local hospital.

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According to the Associated Press:

Gugino is a veteran peace activist involved with the Western New York Peace Center and Latin American Solidarity Committee, said Vicki Ross, the center's executive director. His Twitter timeline includes tweets and retweets supportive of progressive causes and critical of police. One tweet from Wednesday read: "The cops should not have clubs. And should not be in riot gear. The National Guard should arrest the police."

The officers will remain on the force, making their resignations in effect a refusal to perform "aspects of the job you don't want to do right now (in solidarity with incredible unprovoked violence) while keeping your full paycheck," said writer Nathan Bernhardt.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who introduced a bill to strip police of qualified immunity, which protects them from prosecution, tweeted that the resignations were "disgraceful."

"There's a toxic culture inside many police departments," said Amash.

The ongoing protests and demonstrations over police brutality sparked by last week's killing of unarmed black man George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers are set to continue through the weekend, with massive crowds expected on Saturday and Sunday in cities and towns around the country. 

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