Biden on the Buffalo massacre: “White supremacism is poison” | International

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“We are not used to seeing presidents in this neighborhood,” says Rhonda, stationed behind the police cordon several blocks around with which the Buffalo police have encapsulated the horror that took over this city in the State of New York last Saturday. So an 18-year-old white supremacist named Payton Gendron, armed to the teeth and intoxicated with racist hatred, extreme nationalism and wild conspiracy theories, drove three hours from his town to a popular supermarket on Jefferson Avenue, the social epicenter from one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in eastern Buffalo (278,000 inhabitants), famous for being the gateway to Niagara Falls, on the Canadian border. Gendron chose it because of its high percentage of black population. Before police apprehended him, he shot 13 people, 11 of them African American. He killed 10. Three days later, President Joe Biden —accompanied by the first lady, Jill Biden— has come here to comfort the families of the deceased and to meet with the leaders of a community torn between mourning and Rage.

“The devil came to Buffalo on Saturday,” Biden said on Tuesday. “What has happened can only be defined as domestic terrorism. White supremacy is poison. We cannot remain silent in the face of these massacres”, he added, and has referred to tragedies such as those in “Charlottesville, Charleston, Atlanta or El Paso”, all place names that bear the memory of white supremacism in the United States, an epidemic on the rise in recent years.

Biden has charged on several occasions against “those who spread those lies in search of power, political gain or simple benefit.” She was referring to the conspiracy known as the Great Replacement Theory, according to which the elites of the left are disempowering whites by allowing the uncontrolled entry of immigrants or by facilitating access to the vote for minorities. That belief has found an echo with some Republican lawmakers of late, as well as with Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s powerful speaker, arguably his most famous apologist.

Before addressing relatives, politicians and members of the press in the gym of a civic center near the supermarket, the president of the United States visited the place where the shooting began, the parking lot of the Tops Market, which is still closed since the weekend, like the rest of the shops in the area, and has placed flowers. This forced closure has caused a shortage of fresh products in the area, which tries to alleviate the solidarity of the neighbors.

Dozens of them, inhabitants of a neighborhood of dilapidated wooden houses, vacant lots and barbershops and beauty salons, waited for him behind the yellow and black “No trespassing” tapes. Some carried handwritten “Black Lives Matter” or “Stop the Hate” signs. One, Derek Reese, explained to EL PAÍS that on Saturday he lost two friends: “the policeman and the taxi driver.” The people of East Buffalo, between desolation and stupor, already refer to the victims like this, by their professions. The retired cop was named Aaron Salter. The taxi driver, Heyward Patterson, who was also a deacon at the local church. “Those guys were really good people. It could have been any of us. It is going to be very difficult to recover from this blow, ”says Reese. “Just now that we were beginning to overcome some of our problems, this tragedy happens… This area is eaten up by drugs.”

Nearby, Saneequah told from the balcony of his single-family home that his life and that of his family “have completely changed.” “We have received an unexpected visitor: fear. To think that what happened so close to here … makes it hard for me to sleep, thinking that she could have died, ”he added, pointing to her two-year-old daughter.

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Biden has reviewed in his speech the names of the 10 fatalities, and what they did in the supermarket; stories like that of that grandmother who went to buy strawberries “to prepare her favorite cake” or the guy who approached her about a gift for her son. “The poor boy spent the day of his birthday asking: ‘Where’s daddy,” Biden lamented. The president has shown in his 15 months in office that he is comfortable in that role of “comforter-in-chief.” He has taken his time with the victims, whose disconsolate cries were felt on the other side of the curtains, which preserved the intimacy of the meeting from the eyes of the press, arriving from all over the country. Dee Davis, daughter-in-law of one of the murdered, Celestine Chaney, later explained that “the empathy was noticeable [del líder estadounidense]”. “He has not come just to take the photo,” she added.

Once the act is over, Biden has returned to Washington. In a talk at the Buffalo airport with the journalists who usually follow him, he has touched on some of the issues that floated in the air during his speech. Regarding arms control, a topic that is as recurrent as it is frustrating in the United States every time a tragedy of these characteristics occurs, he has said that he has to “convince Congress [para lograrlo]” and that “it will be very difficult”, but he will not “give up”. Regarding the consideration of the massacre as an act of “internal terrorism” and the possibility of creating a new legal type that serves to better prosecute it, he has clarified: “There are enough laws in our system to deal with what is happening ”.

Before Biden, Kathy Hochul spoke at the gym, who in addition to being the governor of New York is “daughter of Buffalo”, and that is why she asked that a local neologism be imposed these days: buffalove (which results from adding Búfalo and amor, in English) to “that hatred that is no longer residual, but rather spreads in the corridors of Congress and in the prime-time cable television programs.”

After Hochul, there was also time for, among other speakers, the mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, whose management of this crisis is emerging stronger, and Chuck Schumer, representative from New York and leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate . “I advocated a lot for the construction of the Tops Market [lugar del tiroteo]. It was important to guarantee access to healthy food for the residents of a particularly hard-hit area. We could not imagine to what extent it would end up being a social meeting place”, he recalled.

Nor could it have been imagined that three days ago it would become the scene of one of the most tragic racist massacres of recent times in the United States. The author of it, a boy who was able to buy an AR-15 rifle without problems, a military weapon that he manipulated so that he could load more ammunition than the factory model allows, will appear again this Thursday before the judge. The funeral of the first victim will have to wait until Saturday.

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