BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – Shortly after Buffalo’s curfew started Thursday evening, city police and State Police swept through the area of Niagara Square directly in front of City Hall to clear the area where a protest was finishing. An unidentified, 75-year-old man was shoved by two officers in the line. The man lost his balance and fell to the pavement, audibly hitting his head with blood running out from under his head.
Two medics came forward and treated him. They helped put him in an ambulance and he was taken away. The man is in serious, but stable condition at ECMC as of Thursday night, reportedly with a concussion and lacerations. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said based on the information he was given, the man is expected to recover.
A Buffalo Police spokesman issued a statement at 8:50 p.m. Thursday saying “a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”
WBFO posted video of the incident on Twitter at 9:13 p.m. Following that posting, department officials said a full Internal Affairs investigation was underway and that Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood had ordered the immediate suspension of the two officers involved, without pay.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issued the following statement at 11:05 p.m., saying he was “deeply disturbed by the video”:
“Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man. The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay. After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a tweet, called the incident “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.”
This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.
I’ve spoken with Buffalo @MayorByronBrown and we agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation.
Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law. https://twitter.com/WBFO/status/1268712530358292484 …
The New York Attorney General’s Office said, on Twitter, it is aware of the video, which quickly went viral Thursday evening, attracting national and international attention. As of midnight, it had more than 21 million views on Twitter.
New York Civil Liberties Union, in a statement, said “the casual cruelty demonstrated by Buffalo police officers tonight is gut-wrenching and unacceptable.” Buffalo Chapter Director John Curr added, “We are in solidarity with Buffalo’s protesters and demand that demonstrators can protest without the threat of police brutality on the streets tomorrow.”
“Simply put, the officers must be held responsible for their actions, not just fired,” said Poloncarz, in a tweet.
“The video was deeply disturbing and the actions taken were wrong. We need a prompt investigation and full accountability,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D), in a statement.
Protests over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis last week, have been taking place in Buffalo since last Saturday. They have been peaceful at times and tense at other times, with the most serious resulting incident coming when a vehicle ran into three law enforcers on Bailey Avenue on Monday night, causing serious injuries to a state trooper. The driver of the vehicle was not involved in that protest and has been charged with multiple felonies, including aggravated assault on a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon.
Thursday’s protest lasted several hours, beginning in the afternoon. It became tense at one point when a standoff occurred between police and protesters, but ended peacefully with the crowd dispersing. The shoving of the man in the video came after most of the protesters had left, around the time of the 8 p.m. curfew. Four people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges for blocking traffic in Niagara Square during the protest.
Mayor Brown, in an afternoon news conference, announced a ban on the use of chokeholds on police. suspects.
(This story is developing and will be updated.)