BUFFALO (WBEN) – Two weeks after a grand jury dismissed the charges against police officers who pushed Martin Gugino, 75, to the ground during a protest in Niagara Square, Gugino filed a lawsuit against the city of Buffalo and officials involved in the incident.
“Martin Gugino opened this case to protect his constitutional rights and the constitutional rights of all his fellow citizens, especially the right to protest peacefully in a public place,” said Gugino’s lawyer, Richard Weisbeck.
On July 4, the incident was filmed – it showed Gugino approaching police officers after the curfew, and that’s when officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe are seen pushing Gugino to the ground.
Gugino suffered a fractured skull and spent about four weeks in the hospital.
“If a citizen is on the street or on the sidewalk and is acting peacefully, the state, the government, the police cannot use violence and cannot attack that citizen,” said Weisbeck. “Martin Gugino was a peaceful citizen at the time he was attacked by the government.”
The argument was made that Gugino should never have approached the police in the first place – an idea rejected by Weisbeck.
“Everyone has the right to approach a police officer to speak to him,” he continued. “Martin Gugino had no weapon, said nothing threatening, so the police should wait for the citizens to come over to speak to them, and that is an absolute right that a citizen has.”
Lawyer Melissa Wischerath also represents Gugino in this case, and she added that the city’s Emergency Response Team should have been in Niagara Square in the first place.
“The deployment of the militarized Emergency Response Team to clear the plaza of three peaceful citizens and a reporter who happened to be sitting on the steps was unconstitutional and unnecessary,” she said. “There was no reason why a militarized team needed to leave that night.”
Defendants in the lawsuit have 21 days to respond to the lawsuit, and Wischerath noted that the legal process in this case can take one to two and a half years.