The Evening Leader
Biden mourns Buffalo victims after shooting
BUFFALO (AP) — President Joe Biden mourned with Buffalo’s grieving families on Tuesday, then exhorted the nation to reject what he angrily labeled the poison of white supremacy. He said the nation must “reject the lie” of the racist “replacement theory” espoused by the shooter who killed 10 Black people in Buffalo.
Speaking to victims' families, local officials and first responders, Biden declared that America's diversity is its strength, and warned that the nation must not be distorted by a “hateful minority.” He promised to “expose” those who promote hateful ideology.
“The American experiment in democracy is in danger like it hasn’t been in my lifetime,” Biden said. “It’s in danger this hour. Hate and fear being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America but who don’t understand America.”
He pledged, “In America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail, white supremacy will not have the last word.”
Back at the White House Tuesday evening, Biden laid the blame for the Buffalo incident and others not just on “wackos” who commit hate crimes, but also those who “fill their brains with false ideas.”
As long as he is president, he said, "I’m going to fight like hell and we’re going to expose everybody.”
Biden's emotional remarks came after he and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects at a makeshift memorial of blossoms, candles and messages of condolence outside the Tops supermarket, where on Saturday a young man armed with an assault rifle targeted Black people in the deadliest racist attack in the U.S. since Biden took office.
“Jill and I have come to stand with you, and to the families, we have come to grieve with you," Biden said.
He added: “Now’s the time for people of all races, from every background, to speak up as a majority ... and reject white supremacy.”
Replacement theory is a racist ideology, which has moved from white nationalist circles to mainstream, that alleges white people and their influence are being intentionally “replaced” by people of color through immigration and higher birth rates.
In Buffalo, the president was confronting anew the forces of hatred he frequently says called him back to seek the White House.
“It’s important for him to show up for the families and the community and express his condolences,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “But we’re more concerned with preventing this from happening in the future.”
It’s unclear how Biden can do that. Proposals for new gun restrictions have repeatedly been blocked by Republicans, and racist rhetoric espoused on the fringes of the nation’s politics has only grown louder.
Asked about gun legislation, Biden said at the airport, “It’s going to be very difficult. ... I’m not going to give up trying.”
Wayne Jones, whose mother Celestine Chaney was killed in the attack, said he appreciated Biden taking time to meet with the families, but he was not optimistic anything will be accomplished in Washington without an end to partisan division.
Money is a big problem, too, he said. "A lot of money is being made from gun purchases -who needs an AR-15?”
Biden's condemnation of white supremacy is a message he has delivered several times since he became the first president to specifically address it in an inaugural speech. However, such beliefs remain an entrenched threat at a time when his administration has been focused on addressing the pandemic, inflation and the war in Ukraine.
In his remarks Tuesday, Biden paid tribute to each of the 10 people who lost their lives, describing them as beacons of their community and deeply committed to family.
Three more people were wounded. Nearly all the victims were Black, including all of those who died.
The shooter's writings echoed those of the white supremacists who marched with torches in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a scene that Biden said inspired his decision to run against President Donald Trump in 2020 and that drove him to join what he calls the “battle for the soul of America."
In Buffalo, Payton Gendron, 18, was arrested at the supermarket and charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers declined to comment Tuesday.