Nearly 60 emergency response police officers have voluntarily stood down after a video of two colleagues pushing an elderly protester to the ground went viral and the officers were suspended.
Long-time peaceful protester Martin Gugino, 75, was filmed being pushed by the officers in riot gear in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, local time.
The officers then left him laying on his back with blood coming from his head as they marched forward, with a few looking down at the injured man while passing by.
He was seriously injured in the incident but is reportedly now in a stable condition in hospital, according to multiple media reports.
After a video of the incident was shared widely online, the two officers considered responsible were suspended. But now 57 fellow police members have left the special unit in solidarity with the two accused men.
The officers who witnessed the incident and subsequently resigned made up the unit’s entire emergency response team, the local mayor’s office told CNN.
The two officers seen pushing Mr Gugino were suspended but there have been calls for them not to be fired.
Mayor Byron Brown said they should be subject to “due process” but not necessary being sacked, arguing that Mr Guginio had been “asked to leave numerous times” before being shoved.
Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans said the 57 officers had stood down in protest of the treatment of their colleagues, who “were simply executing orders”, he told WGRZ.
Mr Brown said police were told to be careful when clearing protesters from the streets, which he said they were doing in an effort to prevent fights breaking out between protesters.
Despite the officers forming the entire emergency team, the mayor said the city would still have a reasonable supply of officers to keep people “safe”.
Police from the New York State force have reportedly sent in reinforcements following the resignations.
The demonstrations in Buffalo were among the many rallies seen across the US, the UK and Australia, sparked by the death of black man George Floyd, and in protest of police brutality against people of colour.
Chaos has been erupting for more than a week across several cities in the US, with thousands of people rallying, buildings and cars being set alight, and widespread looting occurring.
Protests in Sydney and Melbourne are planned for Saturday, however authorities are urging people to stay home over concerns the rallies will spread COVID-19.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.