As Biden prepares visit to Buffalo after racist mass shooting, demands for action grow louder

The tragedy in New York is one of many massacres committed by white supremacists over the years. Leaders are calling for the White House and Congress to respond.

President Joe Biden is traveling to Buffalo, New York on Tuesday after the deadly, racist mass shooting that occurred at a local supermarket this past weekend.

But as the White House prepares for the presidential trip up north, leaders and community members are calling for action in Washington.

Tiffany Whitfield, center, the daughter of Ruth Whitfield, is consoled by her brother Garnell Whitfield, Jr., left, and other family members after becoming overcome with emotion during a press conference in Buffalo, N.Y. May 16, 2022, in which family members, along with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, right, spoke about Ruth Whitfield, one of ten people killed in the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday. (Photo: Seth Harrison, USA Today).

Ten people are dead and three others were wounded by the gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who reportedly espoused white supremacist ideology. The victims’ ages ranged from 35 to 86.  

Administration officials are still working on the president’s travel schedule to finalize details of the trip, however, Biden is expected to meet with the victims’ families. A few hours after the Saturday afternoon tragedy, the president condemned the mass shooting. 

“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology is antithetical to everything we stand for in America,” said Biden.

President Joe Biden steps off of the Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn after returning to the White House on October 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Buffalo mass shooting, which specifically targeted the city’s Black community, has been likened to a similar rampage in 2015 that took the lives of nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, Dylan Roof, shot and killed his victims after sitting down with them for Bible study.

The tragedy in Buffalo is also reminiscent of the 2017 racially-motivated murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a white woman, was counter-protesting against white supremacists who had marched in the city chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” Heyer and dozens of others were struck by a vehicle driven by James Fields, who also espoused neo-Nazi and white supremacist views. 

The horrific series of events of Charlottesville is what Biden said inspired him to run for president – though he would ultimately not do so until the 2020 presidential election. Since entering the White House, President Biden has bolstered the Department of Justice’s civil rights division and various federal law enforcement agencies in efforts to prevent domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence.

On the ground in the state of New York, the deadly and racist attack on the Black community is drawing strong reactions. 

“New York is not the place. And we got to show ’em,” said NAACP’s New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes. 

The 90-year-old civil rights leader wants the federal government to make an example of Gendron. She told theGrio that the suspect should spend the rest of his life behind bars where he can ruminate over the hateful shooting spree that he committed.

Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, speaks during a press conference announcing State Senator Brian Benjamin as her Lt. Governor on August 26, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Dukes did not call for the death penalty, citing capital punishment as a trend of innocent Black people being sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. However, the NAACP leader affirmed that the nation’s oldest civil rights group wants to see “laws on the books” that prevent these tragedies from happening. 

She particularly noted a need for legislation that targets the role the internet and social media play in radicalizing white supremacists. “We got to send a loud and clear message to them,” said Dukes.

The Department of Justice is investigating the Saturday mass shooting as a hate crime. Gendron is said to have left evidence suggesting he intentionally targeted the grocery store because it was in a predominantly Black community. He reportedly published a 180-page racist manifesto and had the n-word painted on the barrel of his firearm.

Dukes said there’s no question it was a hate crime. “He murdered these people in the stores shopping, people working at the cash register,” she said. “He didn’t know them and they didn’t know him. But they were in a Black community he went to wipe out.”

Tiffany Whitfield, left, the daughter of Ruth Whitfield, and Tiffany’s daughters Laurell Roberston and Lauren Gibson, become emotional during a press conference in Buffalo, N.Y. May 16, 2022, in which family members, along with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump spoke about Ruth Whitfield, one of ten people killed in the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday. Mandatory (Photo: Seth Harrison-USA TODAY)

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing the family of 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, one of the 10 victims killed on Saturday. Crump told theGrio, “This is further reason why Congress needs to pass an Anti-Black hate crime bill like we did last year with the anti-Asian hate crime bill.”

“It seems like every other racial group in America can get legislation passed with little or no resistance except Black people,” Crump added. “It seems like every other racial group in America can get legislation passed for their benefit with little or no resistance except Black people.”

Public sadness and outrage have been felt around the country following the Buffalo mass shooting, as well as a demand for action. Dukes is clear in her sentiment, calling this latest attack both “racist” and an act of “terrorism.”

“We’ve got to protect our citizens and we’re not going to let you divide us and let you come in and think you can wipe out our race,” said Dukes.

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