Buffalo shooting victim’s son urges senators on domestic terrorism: ‘What are you doing?’

Washington— The former Buffalo Fire Department commissioner whose 86-year-old mother was fatally shot in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, last month pressed senators to tackle the growing threat of domestic terrorism, asking if there’s “anything you’re personally willing to do” to stop the spread of the extremist ideology that has been the source of many violent attacks in recent years.

“You expect us to just keep forgiving and forgetting over and over again. And what do you do?” asked Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose mother, Ruth Whitfield, was among the 10 people shot and killed during the attack at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on May 14. “You were elected to protect us, to protect our way of life. , is there nothing we can do?”

Whitfield testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing on the growing threat of domestic terrorism in the wake of the Buffalo Massacre. Noting federal law enforcement assessments that white supremacy is the greatest domestic threat, Whitfield lamented that “nothing has been done to mitigate or eradicate it.”

“Is there nothing you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?” he asked at the panel. “Because if there is nothing, then, respectfully, senators, you should cede your positions of authority and influence to others who are prepared to lead on this issue. The urgency of the moment does not ask for no less.”

Buffalo victim’s son asks senators to fight domestic terrorism


Buffalo’s attack last month, followed by a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, 10 days later, mobilized Democrats in Congress to take action to reform national gun laws and combat domestic terrorism. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which also included testimony from constitutional law and security experts, was part of those efforts.

But it’s unclear whether Republicans and Democrats can unite around a legislative plan to bolster efforts against domestic terrorism. The Senate last week failed to advance an invoice forcing the FBI, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to open dedicated offices to combat domestic terrorism and create a task force to combat white supremacy in the US military. The law project passed the Democratic-led House days after the Buffalo shooting.

The accused gunman in the Tops massacre, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is a self-proclaimed white supremacist who allegedly detailed his plans and racist motivation in writings posted online before the attack.

Investigators said the suspect drove three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, to target black people in the predominantly African-American neighborhood. Gendron was accused by the state for hate-motivated domestic terrorism and 10 counts of first-degree murder, among other counts. He pleaded not guilty to a 25-count indictment returned by the grand jury on June 1.

In her opening address to the Senate Judiciary Panel, Whitfield paid tribute to her mother and said her murder was “impossible to understand and even more difficult to live with.”

Ruth Whitfield.

Family photo

“But we are more than hurt. We are angry. We are furious because this should never have happened,” he said. “We are good citizens, good people. We believe in God, we trust in God. But it wasn’t an act of God, it was an act of a person, and he didn’t act alone. He was radicalized by supremacists whose anger and hatred was metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones in high places, shouting that black people were going to take away their jobs and their opportunities.”

Whitfield said lawmakers must hold accountable entities that amplify extremist ideologies and racist beliefs in order to stamp out domestic terrorism.

“White supremacy is a problem, and this young man, although he pulled the trigger, others loaded the gun. Others fed him. Others radicalized him “, he said.

At the start of the hearing, committee chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said the acts of domestic terrorism were part of a larger pattern in the country that continued to grow and broadcast a video containing clips from Fox News, most of which featured comments from host Tucker Carlson.

“White supremacist violence has swept across America, and this trend begs the obvious question: Why is it getting worse? We can’t deny that hate has a big platform,” Durbin said. .

In urging the Senate to take action to address the threat of domestic terrorism, Whitfield said he had encountered racism throughout his life and that experience should not be ignored.

“We’re not here to ask favors. We’re not here to debate that. It didn’t start with my mother passing,” he said. “It’s been my whole life. I was born Black and I’ve been treated differently since the day I was born in this country, and it’s time we stood up and recognized that. It’s not OK and we we can’t continue to ignore it.”

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