Martin Gugino says he can't remember the incident that landed him in the hospital with a fractured skull and a brain injury—but it was definitely a turning point in his life. The 75-year-old activist, who spent a month in the hospital after being shoved by police at a protest in Buffalo in early June, tells USA Today that he can't recall being pushed or what he said to police, but he does remember this: being alarmed when police in riot gear started moving toward George Floyd protesters. "I thought, 'Why are they carrying batons?'" he says. "I thought, 'Oh my God…' and that’s all I can remember." He says he had intense nightmares during the time in the hospital. "Every time you’d sit up, you would get dizzy," he says. “It was like you were on a boat all the time."
The two officers involved were charged with assault and are currently suspended with pay. Gugino says the incident has not turned him against the police, and he is unfazed by attacks from people—including President Trump—who suggested the incident was a "set up." "I was like 'Go ahead, take your best shot,'" he says. Gugino says he plans to continue his First Amendment activism. He says the government should listen more closely to the concerns of protesters—but he has hope for the country's future. "People are going to get together and start complaining, and realizing how they’re being treated. Are you going to invite them in? Are you going to understand what they’re up to?" he says. "That’s what democracy does. That’s the difference between Mao Zedong and George Washington." (Read more Buffalo stories.)