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Today on Twitter, Trump has made a claim that a 75-year old man previously filmed being pushed and falling to the pavement by police might be an ANTIFA provocateur.

Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?

Several news sources have carried the story, but thus far the only source cited for the theory is OANN - which seems to show the man waving a cellphone-like device at the police.

Setting the man's affiliation with any groups aside - is there any credible supporting evidence that the man was attempting to instigate a confrontation, or that he was planning to 'set up' the police force?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jamiec Jun 11 at 15:32
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As the other answer states, the source of the initial claim can be traced back as follows:

The video shows Martin Gugino holding his phone below eyeline and facing it towards the faces of the police. Police have not described this cell phone activity as a provocation.

The Twitter thread is incoherent. It describes how an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) number might be captured by standing outside a home and given to the police to help them obtain a warrant. This has nothing to do with waving a phone at police. According to the EFF, cell phone signals can only be tracked by cell towers, or by a "technically sophisticated organization" capable of simulating a cell tower, which would require at the very least a $30,000 device much larger than the cell phone the man was holding.

The video claims something even stranger, that he is capturing the phone's NFC (near-field communication) signal. This is a chip inside modern credit cards and cell phones used for touch-to-pay. The police have not claimed that this man was reading NFC data, and the phone would have to be much closer to obtain such data. Even if such data was captured through a hitherto unknown NFC spy app, it would be the equivalent of the police officer's credit card, not any secret police information.

Both of these technical allegations lack the supporting evidence to be the most plausible theory. The Occam's Razor explanation is that Martin Gugino was pointing his phone at the police because he was filming them; furthermore that the police knocked him over and that he was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, where he remains as of June 11, 2020.

(update) On June 12, 2020 it was announced that Gugino is conscious but has sustained permanent brain damage.

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    NFC, as is part of the name, needs to be near to work. If you've ever tried to use tap-to-pay with your phone, you probably know how finnicky it can be to find just the right placement on the terminal for it to actually be recognized. You can actually use a phone to read NFC data, it just has to be within millimeters of the target. – TheWanderer Jun 10 at 14:36
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    Phones absolutely can read NFC signals (they have to, in order to use it to communicate). But it's not like cell-phones are just constantly transmitting credit card information to anyone nearby. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 10 at 15:25
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    "simulating a cell tower[...] would certainly require a lot of electricity" Not as much as you might be thinking. Harris Corporation makes the (in)famous Stingray cell site simulator for use in vehicles, and also has a person-portable version called Kingfish. theintercept.com/surveillance-catalogue/kingfish Granted, both are considerably larger than a cell phone and are inarguably NOT what Gugino was holding. Further, anyone using these would not need to be anywhere near that close to employ either device. Per Harris, these devices collect IMSI but prevent calls etc. from connecting. – Kromey Jun 10 at 17:02
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    Shorter, clearer answer: No, the man did not provoke police. Claims made to the contrary provide no supporting evidence and rely upon technical allegations are are just plain impossible. – aroth Jun 11 at 6:38
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    @Hasse1987 "It omits at least one well reported source, the mayor of buffalo, who described him as a provocateur. " - I don't think the mayor said that. The mayor did say a different protester at a different time and place was an "agitator" and "major instigator" and he was misreported by the media who said the mayor was referring to Gugino. snopes.com/news/2020/06/09/trump-gugino-tweet thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/… – Lag Jun 11 at 16:59
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is there any credible supporting evidence that the man was attempting to instigate a confrontation, or that he was planning to 'set up' the police force?

No.

Buzzfeed:

Trump's Tuesday morning tweet and Facebook post were inspired by an "absolutely insane" segment from little-watched cable channel One America News Network, which has aired false information in the past. The OAN report baselessly claims Gugino's injury was the result of a "false flag provocation by far-left group antifa," and said he appeared "to use a police tracker" on his phone. There is zero evidence linking Gugino to an antifa organization, and the claim that he tracked or scanned police is based only on the fact that Gugino was holding a mobile phone.

Statement of Gugino's attorney to to Law&Crime:

Thank you for following up regarding the President’s Tweet about my client, Martin Gugino. Martin is out of ICU but still hospitalized and truly needs to rest. Martin has always been a PEACEFUL protestor because he cares about today’s society. He is also a typical Western New Yorker who loves his family. No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise so we are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.

Apparent information flow courtesy Daniel Dale, CNN:

Apparent information flow: - Some people on the Internet → - The website Conservative Treehouse → - A Russian state media veteran now working for One America News Network → - The president of the United States

Joe Passantino, Director of coverage, CNN Los Angeles:

The original article cited by OAN on the “Conservative Treehouse” website was written by an anonymous person who publishes under a pseudonym. The site is registered through a company that hides the identity and location of the owner of the website.

CBS:

Washington — President Trump suggested without evidence Tuesday morning that an elderly man who was hospitalized after being shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo, New York, was an "ANTIFA provocateur" who may have been trying to "set up" law enforcement.

A Fox News article about Trump's tweet says:

The OANN report Trump apparently was citing was based on a post from the site Conservative Treehouse saying that Gugino was an activist, which is true. But the report does not actually provide evidence that Gugino is associated with Antifa. Further, it claims, without evidence, that Gugino was attempting to use a "police tracker" on his phone to scan police communications and apparently black them out.

And mentions that "Media personalities on the left and right also ripped Trump's post" including:

"My God this is a bad tweet," Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller posted. "There’s no evidence to support this and the guy looked like he fell as hard as he was pushed."

Conservative radio host Erick Erickson simply tweeted "[p]lease stop."

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jamiec Jun 11 at 8:23

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