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Communities across the country are coming together after a white supremacist attacked grocery shoppers at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, May 14. East Buffalo, the neighborhood targeted, is predominantly Black – nearly 65% of residents are Black.
The shooter’s victims included Celestine Chaney, a 65-year-old grandmother; Roberta Drury, a 32-year-old who had recently moved into the area; Andre McKniel at the store picking up a birthday cake for his son; Katherine Massy, a 72-year-old activist and advocate for her neighbors; Margus Morrison, 52 years old, buying snacks for a movie night with his family; Heyward Patterson, a 67-year-old taxi driver; Aaron Salter, a former police officer and security guard at the store; Geraldine Talley, 62 years old, who was shot while shopping with her fiance; Ruth Whitfield, the 86-year-old mother of a former Buffalo Fire Commissioner; and Pearl Young, a 77-year-old substitute teacher. Zaire Goodman, 20-years-old, was the only Black person shot who did not die.
The Tops location is the only grocery store in the area, which is otherwise a food desert. Trice Smith, a Buffalo resident, explains, “We don’t have much over here. You know, we don’t have markets on every corner… We have people that don’t have cars.” (National Public Radio)
Approximately 20 years ago, in 2003, food activist Della Miller, operating a produce stand at the time, convinced Tops executives to open the store in East Buffalo. The Tops store served as a meeting point for the whole community, since residents no longer needed to travel for food. It was a place to meet up for dinner or to visit the bank.
Buffalo residents believe that, if the shooter had been Black, he would certainly have been shot on site by the police. Priscilla Geter, a lifelong Buffalo resident explains, “He studied the place he wanted to attack, the people and everything. But he had to study the law too. He knew if he came out and put the gun to his head, that they were not going to shoot him.”
An act of racist terror
The shooter, Payton Gendron, traveled 200 miles to Buffalo from Conklin, New York, a town of approximately 5,000 people, 95 percent white. Conklin is just outside of the small city of Binghamton, which has a sizable Black community. “He was able to live his life without being bothered, and decided to drive into an area where we struggle every day just to live a regular life, just to kill us,” explained Schacana Geter (WAMC)
A local group called Black Love Resists in the Rust, said, “We are extremely outraged by the horrific incident at Tops on Jefferson. We want to be clear that what took place at Tops was nothing less than an act of domestic terrorism.” (Twitter)
White supremacists took the shooting “as a green light to step out of their homes now and commit this type of violence,” explained Schacana Geter. Just one day after the shooting, there was a threat to “shoot up” a Buffalo pizzeria, as well. (WAMC) In Albany, the state capital, two days after the incident in Buffalo, a construction worker was expelled from the property of Albany High School for publicly repeatedly displaying a Confederate flag on his car. (Albany School District)
Several local groups have held food drives since the market closed following the attack. In the city of Rochester, about 75 miles away, residents held a candlelight vigil on May 17, at the local Tops in the working class, multi-racial 19th Ward neighborhood. Cities and towns across the country have joined in vigils and rallies to build solidarity and mutual aid, commemorate the dead, and demand justice.
White supremacist ideology fuels massacre
According to Brian Harris, a Buffalo resident interviewed while he was shopping at a Tops market three miles from the Jefferson store, “This is something from way back; a system that was set up to oppress and keep us down, even in 2022.”
Buffalo displays its Black history predominantly, with a large sign welcoming visitors to the “African American Heritage Corridor.” It is home to the last stop of the Underground Railroad. Yet, it ranks as one of the 20 most segregated cities nationwide, with a history of redlining and economic divestment.
The Buffalo shooter explained his racist motives in a 180-page manifesto circulated online prior to the crime. In the manifesto, he repeatedly mentions the Christchurch, New Zealand shooter who live-streamed killing 51 people and injuring 40 more at a mosque in 2019. The Buffalo shooter imitated the Christchurch killer’s practice of live-streaming his crime and bragging about it on social media. The Christchurch shooter and the Buffalo shooter both had a Nazi symbol, the black sun or sonnenrad, embroidered on their jackets.
The Ukrainian Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi regiment of the Ukrainian armed forces, also uses the black sun symbol. Last week, every Democrat and most Republicans in the House and Senate voted to send $40 billion dollars in weapons and aid to the Ukrainian military, including the Azov Battalion. These dollars will fuel further war and suffering. This is more of the same imperialist ideology that stretches white supremacy around the world.
Gendron explained that he was motivated by the “great replacement” theory, invented in 2010 by French white nationalist Renaud Camus. The theory is similar to the much older “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which had its roots in the work of the American eugenicist Madison Grant in the 1910’s. Adolf Hitler cited Grant as one of his influences. The theory is that white people are systematically being replaced by “non-whites.” The Buffalo shooter argued that “critical race theory” being taught in schools made him want to kill Jews.
Former president Donald Trump and other members of the Republican party have dog-whistled support to fascist groups. As torch-wielding participants at the 2017 Unite the Right Rally chanted “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us!,” Donald Trump said there were “some good people on both sides.”
The Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who fashions himself as a “right-wing populist,” has also voiced support for replacement theory. In April of 2021, Carlson said on his show, which is the highest rated cable news program in the United States, “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World…. That’s the truth. That’s what’s happening.” Carlson, a multi-millionaire, has made a career and a fortune fomenting racism.
The fascist murderer in Buffalo was not a “lone gunman.” He was the product of the vile white supremacist ideology created and promoted by the U.S. ruling class to maintain their wealth and power. Justice for the Buffalo victims! Smash white supremacy!