In Buffalo, Biden to confront the racism he’s vowed to fight

WASHINGTON (AP) – When Joe Biden talks about his decision to run for President Donald Trump in 2020, the story always begins with Charlottesville. He said it was the men holding torches and chanting loud slogans that motivated him to engage in what he called “the battle for the soul of America.”

Biden is now facing the latest deadly expression of hatred after a white supremacist targeted Black people with an assault rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and left 10 people dead. killed, the deadliest racist attack since he took office.

The President and first lady Jill Biden will visit the city on Tuesday, where their first stop will be a makeshift memorial outside the supermarket. They are also expected to meet privately with the families of the victims, first responders and local officials before the president makes public remarks.

In a speech at a nearby community center, Biden plans to call for stricter gun laws and urge Americans to reject racism and embrace the nation’s diversity, the White House said. .

That’s the message Biden has delivered many times since he became the first president to specifically mention white supremacy in his inaugural address, calling it “domestic terrorism.” that we have to confront.” However, such beliefs remain an inherent threat at a time when his administration is preoccupied with crises related to the pandemic, inflation and war in Ukraine.

“It was important for him to show up for his family and community and express his condolences,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president. “But we’re more concerned with preventing this from happening in the future.”

It’s unclear how Biden will attempt to do that. Proposals to limit new guns are regularly blocked by Republicans. Also, the racism that broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, seems to be just spreading.

The White House said the president and first lady would “grief with the community that lost 10 lives in a senseless and horrifying mass shooting.” Three more people were injured. Nearly all of the victims were black.

Biden was briefed on the shootings by hometown security adviser, Liz Sherwood-Randall, before he attended church services on Saturday near his family’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, according to the White House. . She called back later to tell him that law enforcement had concluded the attack was racially motivated.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, told Buffalo radio that she invited Biden to the city.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, it will be very powerful if you come here,” Hochul said. “‘This community is in great pain, and to see the president of the United States show them the attention Buffalo doesn’t always get.”

On Monday, Biden paid tribute to one of the victims, retired police officer Aaron Salter, who was a security guard at the store. He said Salter “gave his life trying to save others” by opening fire on the gunman, then killing himself.

Payton Gendron, 18, was arrested at the supermarket and charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Before the shooting happened, Gendron is said to have posted online a mock photo filled with racism and anti-Semitism. The document writer describes himself as a supporter of Dylan Roof, who killed nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, and Brenton Tarrant, who targeted mosques Catholicism in New Zealand in 2019.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron was “a man with hatred in their heart, soul and mind,” and he called the attack on the store “a discriminable hate crime.” absolute race”.

For now, investigators are looking into Gendron’s connection to what has come to be known as the “great alternative” theory, which baselessly claims that whites are being outnumbered by other races. intentionally due to immigration or higher birth rates.

Racist ideology is often intertwined with anti-Semitism, with Jews identified as the perpetrators. During the 2017 “Unity Right” march in Charlottesville, white supremacists chanted “The Jews will not replace us.”

“Many of those dark voices still exist today,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “And the president is still as determined as he was then. . . to ensure that we fight against the forces of hatred, evil, and violence. “

In the years since Charlottesville, alternative theory has moved from the online fringes to mainstream right-wing politics. One-third of American adults believe there is “a group of people in this country trying to replace Native Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views,” according to a poll. conducted in December by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Tucker Carlson, the popular host of Fox News, accused Democrats of orchestrating the mass exodus to consolidate their power.

“The country is being stolen from American citizens,” he said on August 23, 2021.

He repeated the same theme a month later, saying that “this policy is called the great substitution, the replacement of American heirs with more docile people from faraway countries.”

Carlson’s show regularly receives top ratings on cable news, and he responded to a hearty Monday evening by accusing libertarians of trying to silence his opponents. surname.

“So because a mentally ill teenager killed a stranger, you can’t be allowed to express your political beliefs out loud,” he said.

His commentary reflects how conspiracy views on immigration have spread within the Republican Party ahead of this year’s midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress.

Facebook ads posted last year by the campaign committee of Representative Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., said Democrats wanted a “PERMANENT WAY to elect” by pardoning those illegal immigration. The plan would “topple our current constituency and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik’s campaign, said on Monday that she “never supported any racist views or made racist statements”. He criticized her for “sick and false reporting” of her advertisements.

Stefanik was the third-level leader in the Republican caucus in the House, replacing Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who angered the party with her accusations against Trump in the wake of the election. January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Cheney, in a tweet on Monday, said the leadership of the “closed meeting” triggered white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends much worse. “

The rhetoric of the alternative theory has also appeared in Republican primary campaigns.

“The Democrats want open borders so they can attract and pardon tens of millions of illegal aliens – that’s their election strategy,” said Blake Masters, who is running in the primaries. Republican Senate in Arizona, wrote on Twitter hours after the Buffalo shooting. “Not on my watch.”

A spokesperson for Masters did not respond to a request for comment.

Jean-Pierre pointed out that the White House will speak more broadly about the issue of racism than single out specific people to criticize.

“Once you start calling people names, then you get rid of that problem,” she says.

Although Biden did not speak directly about the alternative theory, his warnings about racism remained a constant part of his public speeches.

Three days before the Buffalo shootings, at a Democratic party fundraiser in Chicago, Biden said, “I really think we’re still in a battle for the soul of America.”

Biden has said he has no plans to run for president in 2020 – he’d failed two previous campaigns, serving as vice president and then stepping aside as Hillary Clinton bolstered support for the race. 2016 – and is pleased to spend some time as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

But he said he felt disgusted “when those people marched out of the fields in Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches” and repeated “the same anti-Semitic password being chanted in the streets everywhere everywhere from Nuremberg to Berlin in the early 30s”.

And he recalled how Trump responded to questions about the protest, which led to the death of Heather Heyer, a young woman who was there to protest white supremacists.

“He said there were very good people on both sides,” Biden said.

He added, “We can’t let this happen, guys.”

Johnson, president of the NAACP, said the country needed to “draw out an ultimate road map so that we can as a nation begin to tackle terrorism at home as well as fight foreign terrorism – decisively – decisively possible.”

He added, “White supremacy and democracy cannot coexist.”


Associated Press journalist Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report. In Buffalo, Biden to confront the racism he’s vowed to fight

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