A civil rights activist and attorney representing the family of one of the victims of the Buffalo supermarket mass shooting said the incident was an “act of domestic terrorism.”
“We can’t sugarcoat it, we can’t try to explain it away talking about mental illness. No, this was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a young white supremacist,” Benjamin Crump said Monday during a press conference. “We have to define it as such.”
On Saturday, 18-year-old Payton Gendron was arrested and accused of killing at least 10 and injuring three at Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, N.Y.
Investigators believe Gendron specifically researched the demographics of the population around the supermarket before targetting it.
The shooting is currently being investigated as a federal hate crime and a case of racially-motivated violent extremism. U.S. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that U.S. President Joe Biden still needs to learn more about the motivation of the shooting before taking additional measures, but she said the administration must do “everything in our power to end hate-fuelled domestic terrorism.”
She said Saturday’s events were a reminder of the urgency of the U.S.’s counter-domestic terrorism efforts, which includes information sharing between departments.
Gendron allegedly wrote a 180-page manifesto before the attack outlining his racist views, including the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that asserts whites are being replaced by minorities in the U.S. and in other countries.
Crump on Monday said others are pushing such a theory on young people in America, which is “indoctrinating their minds to go out and commit violence.”
Crump also called out politicians “who are trying to use fear to inspire their base,” calling them “accomplices to this murder.”
“Even though they may not have pulled the trigger, they did load the gun for this white supremacist,” he said.
Crump is one of the attorneys representing the family of Ruth Whitfield, who was killed on Saturday. Whitfield, 86, was the mother of former Buffalo fire commissioner Garnell Whitfield and stopped at Tops on her way home from visiting her husband of 68 years in a nursing home.
Crump spoke Monday with Whitfield’s family near him, visibly grieving. He said Whitfield was a “great lady” and a “hero for this community.”
Garnell said after Crump that Ruth had given herself to her family when she had nothing else to give. The son said that the family isn’t just hurting, but angry as well.
“We do our best to be good citizens, to be good people,” Garnell said.
“And you expect us to keep doing this over and over and over again … forgive and forget.
“While people we elect and trust in offices around this country do their best not to protect us, not to consider us equal.”
He openly asked how the family is supposed to Ruth’s husband that she is gone, nevertheless killed in an alleged targetted attack.
“Part of us is gone,” Garnell said. “Senselessly taken from us by hate.”
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