PResident Joe Biden called Tuesday’s fatal supermarket shooting in Buffalo, NY an act of terror and condemned the white supremacist ideology that inspired the alleged shooter, but he refrained from announcing a political agenda following the massacre.
“What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism,” Biden said during a visit to Buffalo. “Terrorism. Terrorism within. Violence inflicted in the service of hatred and a vicious lust for power that defines a group of people as inherently inferior to any other group.
In an emotional speech to families of the victims, local officials and community leaders, Biden assumed a familiar role as chief grief counselor and empathy; his first wife and daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972, and his son Beau died of cancer in 2015. before it brings tears to your eyes,” the president told the families. gathered at the Delavan-Grider Community Center on the east side of Buffalo.
The setting was minutes from the tops of Jefferson Avenue where the alleged assailant, Payton Gendron, killed 10 people on Saturday. Gendron, 18, reportedly drove more than 200 miles from Conklin, NY to carry out the attack in a predominantly black neighborhood. Officials said he inspected the grocery store a day earlier, with the deliberate intent of killing as many black people as possible. He said so in a 180-page manifesto he posted on the internet hours before the carnage, espousing what is known as the “replacement theory” – the belief that a cabal of elites systematically replaces Whites by ethnic minorities.
The president not only took aim at Gendron’s distorted worldview, but also alluded to right-wing media figures and politicians who amplified versions of the “replacement theory.” Biden did not call anyone by name, but suggested that prominent figures bore moral responsibility for the movement they were helping to grow. “I call on all Americans to reject the lie, and I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and profit,” he said.
Read more: How the “Great Replacement Theory” Fueled Racist Violence
“White supremacy is poison,” Biden said. “We let it fester and grow before our eyes. No more.”
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pay their respects to the 10 people killed in a mass shooting by a gunman who authorities say was motivated by racism, at the Tops Friendly Markets Memorial Site in Buffalo, NY, May 17.
Biden hasn’t used the occasion to push for policy prescriptions, whether calling for more restrictions on guns or a crackdown on social media platforms that become havens for hate speech. . He told reporters before boarding Air Force One on Tuesday that he had to ‘convince Congress to go back to what I spent years ago,’ referring to an assault weapons ban. which he helped adopt as a senator from Delaware in the 1990s and which expired in 2004. “It’s going to be very difficult, but I’m not going to give up. In an evenly divided Senate, the Democrats have almost no certainly not the votes to adopt such a measure.
President Joe Biden meets with the family of Celestine Chaney in Buffalo, NY on May 17. Chaney was one of 10 people killed in the Tops supermarket shooting on May 14, 2022.
Courtesy of Phillip Bell
Several people who attended Biden’s speech appreciated that he focused on community grief rather than Washington’s stalemate. “I don’t think he wanted to politicize the visit,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told TIME shortly after Biden’s speech. “He met 10 families of loved ones who were taken from them by a racist, domestic terrorist attack on this community. I think he wanted to show his concern, his empathy and his compassion for the families.
The family members of the victims agreed. “That was a nice heartfelt speech, man,” said Wayne Jones, whose mother, Celestine Chaney, was killed in Saturday’s attack. “He punched him right in the nose.”
Chaney’s grandson, Phillip Bell, also said he appreciated the president’s remarks. “You can tell it was genuine, and it was really touching to know that he took time out of his busy schedule,” Bell told TIME in the stands, minutes after Biden left the stadium. auditorium. “There are a lot of people suffering now.”
Jones and Bell both met Biden backstage with the rest of their extended family before his speech. There, they say, Biden was more open about his political goals; Jones says the president told them he would push for an assault weapons ban.
For now, however, no impending political fight is at the forefront of Jones’ mind. He is still waiting for authorities to release his mother’s body and is planning her funeral in the next few days. “I would just like to get her back,” Johnson said. “That’s all well and good, but I’d rather have my mother.”
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