Fifty-seven police officers in Buffalo, New York, have resigned from the force's emergency response team following the suspension of two officers who allegedly pushed a 75-year-old protester to the ground, a source close to the situation informed CNN on Friday (local time).
An investigation is underway in a protest incident Governor Andrew Cuomo called "wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful." The man was seriously injured.
After a video of police shoving a 75-year-old white protester who approached them in a city in New York state went viral, two of them were suspended, but all the members of the emergency team resigned in protest.
Video of the demonstration on Thursday showed a row of officers walking toward the man and as he nears them a policeman shoves him with his baton and another with his hand and he falls backwards and injures his head. His head bleeds onto the sidewalk as officers walk past him, some looking down at him.
Gugino was hospitalised and his lawyer told the local NBC affiliate, WGRZ, on Friday that he was "alert and oriented".
The demonstrators in Niagara Square were, like those across the country, calling for racial justice after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
The 57 officers resigned from the emergency unit but not from the force. The Buffalo mayor's office told CNN that the 57 members that resigned from the unit make up the entire active emergency response team.
A few members of the unit are out currently and are not included in the 57 that resigned, according to the mayor's office.
"Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders," Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans told WGRZ on Friday.
But responding to the suspensions, all the 57 members of Buffalo's police emergency response team resigned from the unit "in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders", WGRZ quoted police union president John Evans as saying.
The man identified as Martin Gugino, as confirmed by Cuomo's office, is currently hospitalized and is reported to be in serious but stable condition, as per authorities.
Attorney Kelly V. Zarone representing Gugino released a statement saying he is "alert and oriented" and described him as a longtime peaceful protester and human rights advocate.
"Mr. Gugino requests privacy for himself and his family as he recovers," Zarone said.
"He appreciates all of the well wishes he has received and requests that any further protests continue to be peaceful," Zarone added.
Megan Toufexis, Gugino's daughter, told CNN that her father attended the protest Thursday to discuss First Amendment rights with police.
Protests in the city continued into the evening Friday.
While police excesses, especially against minorities, are in focus because of the nationwide protests triggered by the dead of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man in Minneapolis on May 25 while in police custody, the force have also come under attack.
In the most serious incident in New York City, one police officer was stabbed in the neck and two others were shot on Wednesday night while on patrol to stop looters.
A police officer was shot in the head in Las Vegas and four police officers were injured and a retired police captain killed by gunfire in St Louis, Missouri, on Tuesday.
Police have also been hit with stones, bricks and other objects during protests, while videos are also surfacing every day of police excesses against protesters.
After brazen looting of stores across in New York City on Monday night, Cuomo faulted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and called his leadership a "disgrace".
But after he tightened enforcement, he was criticised for police actions and booed on Thursday when he spoke at a memorial service for Floyd.