New York Governor Andrew Cuomo supports Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's decision to suspend two city police officers caught violently shoving an elderly protester to the ground with no apparent provocation.
Police initially claimed that the man tripped and fell, but changed their statement after video surfaced.
The man, who has not been identified, is in serious but stable condition at a local hospital.
"It made me sick to my stomach," Gov. Cuomo said of the video, which shows the officers leave the man behind, even after blood began pouring from his ears. "It was the same feeling that I felt for 90 of the past nights when I got the death toll of the coronavirus."
Cuomo made the comments at his daily press briefing Friday morning.
He said Mayor Brown was "100 percent right" to suspend the officers. He added that the city should pursue firing them and the district attorney should "pursue criminal charges."
He also encouraged authorities to move quickly in their initial investigation, suggesting that part of the outrage following George Floyd's death last week at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers was in the delay in charging those involved.
Cuomo continued his calls for police reform, pushing back against partisan suggestions that there is a choice to be made between safe communities and civil rights.
Reform is essential, he said, "for the sake of the police and for the sake of the community."
"It's not a question of public safety or civil rights," he said. "You have to be with both. Yes, you need public safety and, yes, you need civil rights... Even in this hysterical moment, you need to be able to hold two truths in your hand at the same time."
Cuomo compared the state's progress in fighting the coronavirus as proof that police and the communities they serve can mutually change for the better.
People are willing to make dramatic changes for the good of others, because they've already done it in the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
There were 42 COVID-19 deaths in New York on Thursday, the lowest figure in the state in months. Eight weeks ago the state was reporting nearly 800 COVID-19 deaths per day.
The governor denied credit for the progress, saying that it was a result of regular New Yorkers changing their behavior for the good of their communities.
"I did nothing," he said. "The people of the state radically changed how they behaved...People are focused, we have a plan, and that's when social reform happens."
He added that he supported local mayors decision to impose curfews, designed to separate rightful protesters from opportunists out to loot and vandalize.
Cuomo added that the recent arrests or detainments of several essential workers — exempt from the curfew — did not sway his opinion that the measures were effective.
New York City was "on the edge of chaos" before the curfew was implemented, he said.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea recently called for peace between demonstrators and cops. At an impromptu news conference yesterday, he assured protesters that officers caught acting violently towards them would face consequences.
There are as many as 10 videos of officers acting inappropriately that are currently being reviewed.
Commissioner Shea added that no protesters had been seriously injured, while cops have increasingly become targeted in violent attacks.
Photo: Getty Images