Not far from the grocery store, Biden was part of a somber tradition of presidents visiting devastated communities following another mass shooting. He also made explicit connections between some of those attacks, citing by name places — like El Paso, Pittsburgh and Charleston, SC — where officials said people accused or convicted of mass killings were fueled by bigotry and hatred.
“White supremacy is a poison … and it’s been allowed to fester and grow right before our eyes,” Biden said. “No more.”
Lives lost in Buffalo
The President attacked what he called a hatred fueled by the news media, politics and the internet that has “radicalized” people “to the false belief that they will be replaced.”
The rambling statement, posted online, touched on the racist theory that whites are being deliberately replaced, an idea once espoused by fringe figures and more recently gaining traction on right-wing TV shows and some elected officials. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) sent a letter Tuesday urging Fox News owners to curb any language on the air suggesting the theory.
Biden nodded to the idea, urged Americans to “reject the lie” and condemned “those who spread the lie for power, political gain and profit.” He also called a failure to denounce white supremacy “complicity.”
“Evil won’t win in America, I promise you,” he said. “Hate will not prevail. And white supremacy will not have the last word.”
Biden has long spoken out about the dangers of white supremacy, repeatedly citing the Unite the Right march in Charlottesville in 2017 as one of his key inspirations for running for president again. He revisited that episode Tuesday, repeating that it was the reason he last ran for office.
Before his speech Tuesday afternoon, President and First Lady Jill Biden visited a memorial site near the Tops Friendly Markets store where the killing spree took place. They laid flowers and briefly stood nearby before Biden met with victims’ families and first responders, according to reporters traveling with him.
Mayor Byron W. Brown said during a Tuesday news briefing that Biden “has been spending an extended amount of time with the families, which was very good to see.”
A Barrage of “Endless Shots”: Inside the Buffalo Massacre
The President’s visit closed road access to almost all of the east side of the city, and snow plows were deployed to block major intersections. Schools along Biden’s route announced over the public address systems that teachers should take their classes outside so they could watch the president’s motorcade drive past.
Leslie Garnder was driving her great-granddaughter to school on Tuesday morning when police cars flew by. Then she saw that the ramps to the freeway that cuts through the city were closed.
Gardner said she first wondered if there had been another shooting — before remembering Biden was coming to town.
“I’m glad he’s here,” she said. “I’m glad people are feeling this tragedy at the highest level.”
But Gardner said she wondered if anything would change. “I’ve really lost faith in the political process,” she said, adding that she blamed Republicans, not Biden.
Authorities continuing to investigate the shooting say Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old from Conklin, NY, opened fire on the tops Saturday afternoon and shot dead 13 people — almost all of them black.
The suspect surrendered at the scene, police said, and was charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty and his attorney has not responded to messages seeking comment.
In addition to the state murder charge, officials are investigating the suspect for possible federal crimes. During a conference call Monday, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said it appeared “this was a targeted assault, a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” according to the remarks released by the FBI.
Police warned the investigation would be lengthy and said they still had work to do to investigate the digital footprint left by the alleged attacker. Investigators believe he wrote the lengthy rant, which was posted online, wallowing in bigotry, including racism and anti-Semitism, and detailing plans for the attack.
Details about the suspect have continued to emerge, including his movements before the shooting and what he may have planned afterward. On Monday, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the suspect was in town in early March. Gramaglia also said officials believed he planned to continue attacking black people after he left the grocery store.
Only 22 watched the Buffalo shooting live. Millions have seen it since then.
The Washington Post reviewed hundreds of pages of news posted online by a writer identifying himself as Gendron, and they contained increasing details of plans to kill blacks. That news also included details of a February decision to target Tops’ Buffalo business because of the African American population there; a March trip there to try to assess its safety; and plans to attack other locations.
Authorities have also said since the shooting that the suspect was investigated in June 2021 after he made threatening comments at his high school. According to the New York State Police, authorities at a Conklin school responded after a 17-year-old student “made a threatening statement.” He was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, the agency said.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Broome County District Attorney Michael A. Korchak said the student made “disturbing comments about murder/suicide” during an online class.
Korchak said that “no direct threats were made to the school or any student,” adding that there was no mention of weapons. The 17-year-old was taken to a hospital by the police, examined and released. The school district and state police, Korchak said, “followed procedures and protocols in place at the time.”
Biden spoke sadly in Buffalo Tuesday of the people who were killed or injured “by a hateful person” who traveled there to carry out an attack and broadcast it to the world.
In emotional remarks, the President said he spoke to some of those who have lost loved ones about their grief and the depth of their fear. Feeling that pain, he said, meant “losing a piece of your soul.”
Biden spoke about the victims in turn, briefly recalling each name without naming the alleged attacker. Celestine Chaney, 65, was trying to buy strawberries “to make her favorite shortcake,” he said. Katherine “Kat” Massey, 72, was “the family glue of the community.”
And Aaron Salter Jr., 55, a retired Buffalo police officer who worked as a security guard who confronted the gunman and shot him but his bulletproof vest hit before he was killed, was “a hero who gave his life to save.” to save others”. President said.
Brown, the mayor, said after Biden spoke that he expected funerals for the victims to begin on Saturday.
Residents have only just begun to deal with the pain. As soon as Rev. Julian Cook, pastor of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, one of the oldest black churches in this city, left the site of the survivors’ reunion just before midnight on Saturday, he began to worry about what he would do the next day in the church should preach.
He settled on Psalm 137: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while we are in a foreign land?”
“We sing about our pain,” Cook said. “We sing about our history. We sing about our hope. That was my sermon. I’ve spent a lot of time with the pain.”
Since the shooting, Cook said he has made friendly remarks with younger children and given teens and young adults space to be angry. People saw the attack, he said, or witnessed bodies in the parking lot.
For some, however, the shooting and the political response only exposed deep-rooted inequalities in the city. Longtime police officer Roscoe Henderson noted that the Tops store is the only supermarket that sells a lot of Black Buffalo.
“You wouldn’t think that would be a problem, but then it reveals another problem. Why is there only one store like this?” he said. “There were others. They have been up and down and they have not been successful and that only reflects the problems that exist.”
Biden’s visit is welcome, Henderson said, but he doesn’t expect it to change the political deadlock in the country’s capital.
“I imagine he’s going to say the right thing and make all the right points,” Henderson said ahead of Biden’s speech. “And that’s good. But when the day is over and Air Force One is gone, what has changed?”