President Donald Trump, a longtime white supremacist and neo-fascist, sent out a bizarre tweet Tuesday morning accusing an elderly man who was shoved by police in Buffalo, New York on June 4 of being “antifa”—the decentralized anti-fascist movement—and more or less faking his fall to the ground. Trump even claims that the 75-year-old man was trying to “black out” police equipment. In reality, the man was violently pushed by two police officers and hit his head on the ground, causing him to bleed all over the pavement.
“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump tweeted earlier today. “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?”
Buffalo Police initially claimed the elderly man “tripped and fell” before video of the encounter emerged, sparking outrage that cops would continue to use violence against peaceful protesters. It also showed that literally no one is safe from police brutality during the international protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis by a white police officer.
The elderly man has been identified as longtime peace activist Martin Gugino who is still in the hospital, according to Buffalo’s local TV station WGRZ. Gugino is reportedly in “serious but stable condition.”
What does Trump mean when he insists that Gugino was trying to “black out” the police equipment? Trump apparently got the idea that Gugino is a high-tech antifa supersoldier from One America News Network, a far-right news outlet that often traffics in strange conspiracy theories, like the idea that the novel coronavirus was manufactured in a government lab in North Carolina.
OANN broadcast a segment on Tuesday filled with conspiracy theories about Gugino supposedly trying to “scan police communications” with his phone.
“Newly released videos appear to show Gugino using a police tracker on his phone, trying to scan police communications during the protest,” OANN insisted on Tuesday. “The tactic, known as skimming, is an old trick used by Antifa to locate police officers and plan violent activities, bypassing the police response.”
Why would Gugino be trying to “locate” police when they’re standing right in front of him? That obvious question goes unanswered in the report. And it gets even dumber from there.
“In addition, the 75-year-old, who’s been referred to as an agitator, was supposedly using the technology to black out police communications. That, however, didn’t quite work,” OANN said. “And many police officers support their police colleagues.”
To be clear, there’s absolutely no evidence that Gugino was doing anything but holding a regular old phone as he approached police. In fact, Gugino may have even been holding one of their police helmets to give back. There is technology that allows hackers to clone fobs for cars and garage openers, but it seems extremely unlikely that a 75-year-old peace protester was dabbling in this kind of tech. And even if he were, it’s unclear what he’d be getting out of it.
The two Buffalo cops who shoved Gugino have been identified as 39-year-old Aaron Torgalski 32-year-old Robert McCabe, both of whom have been charged with second-degree assault. Dozens of police officers from the Buffalo PD applauded the men on Saturday when they left the courthouse, and other Buffalo cops resigned their positions on a specialized police squad to protest the fact that the two cops had been charged.
Trump’s latest tweet appears to be a new low, even for him. But if we’ve learned anything from the Trump presidency it’s that he can sink even lower. There’s plenty of time between now and the presidential election in November for Trump to say and do plenty of shitty things to promote his fascist agenda.
Trump really needs to make everyone who opposes him seem like the bad guy right now, even if they’re elderly protesters bleeding on the pavement. Because the Black Lives Matter movement is very popular with Americans at the moment, with 76 percent of Americans saying racism and discrimination are both a “big problem” and 57 percent of Americans saying that police officers treat white people better than black people.
Even the destruction of police property is getting more popular, as more Americans wake up to the extreme violence being perpetrated by cops on a daily basis. A clear majority of Americans, 54 percent, believe that burning down the Third Precinct in Minneapolis—the one where George Floyd’s killer Derek Chauvin worked—was “fully justified.”
There’s a sea change happening around the world when it comes to racism and police violence. And Trump knows he has to pull out all the stops to change the narrative, even accusing elderly peaceful protesters of being devious hacker terrorists.