Biden, First Lady honor lives lost in Buffalo racist massacre

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President Joe Biden addresses town hall meeting in Buffalo, New York.
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul/Mike Groll/File

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on Tuesday honored the lives lost in the racist massacre of 10 people, mostly Black, on Saturday by a teenage white supremacist at a supermarket in Buffalo, calling on all Americans to condemn white supremacy.

“I just wanted to say thank you to the families for opening up your hearts to us and for letting us be with you today,” said the First Lady before her husband spoke at a ceremony in Buffalo, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Congressman Brian Higgins; Gov. Kathy Hochul; New York Attorney General Letitia James; Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; Congressman Antonio Delgado, New York lieutenant governor designee; other elected officials; law enforcement authorities; and families of the victims among others.

“And to the families: We’ve come here to grieve with you,” President Biden said. “It’s not the same, but we know a little bit of what’s like to lose a piece of your soul, when you lose a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a mother, a father.

“The feeling of having that — as I said to some of you when we talked privately: You feel like there’s a black hole in your chest you’re being sucked into and you’re suffocating, unable to — unable to breath,” he added. “That’s what it felt like, at least to us. And I’m sure some version of that — it feels that way to you. The anger. The pain. The depth of a loss that’s so profound.

“Jill and I bring you this message from deep in our nation’s soul: In America, evil will not win — I promise you,” Biden continued. “Hate will not prevail. And white supremacy will not have the last word. For the evil did come to Buffalo, and it’s come to all too many places, manifested in gunmen who massacred innocent people in the name of hateful and perverse ideology rooted in fear and racism.

“It’s taken so much. Ten lives cut short in a grocery store, three other wounded — three other wounded by a hate-filled individual who had driven 200 miles from Binghamton — in that range — to carry out a murderous, racist rampage that he would livestream — livestream to the world,” he said.

Section of audience at town hall meeting in Buffalo, New York.  Office of Governor Kathy Hochul/Mike Groll

The president described the massacre as “simple and straightforward: terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted in the service of hate and a vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group. “

He said the hate “that through the media and politics, the Internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost, and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced — that’s the word, ‘replaced’ — by the ‘other’ — by people who don’t look like them and who are, therefore, in a perverse ideology that they possess and being fed, lesser beings.”

Biden said he and his audience “reject the lie,” calling on all Americans to “reject the lie.

“And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain, and for profit (applause), because, that’s what it is,” he said. “We have now seen too many times the deadly and destructive violence this ideology unleashes. We heard the chants, ‘You will not replace us’ (in Charlottesville, VA).”

Biden said white supremacy is “a poison. It’s a poison — (applause) — running through — it really is — running through our body politic. And it’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes.

“No more. I mean, no more. We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America (applause.) None,” he stressed. “And, look, failure for us to not say that — failure in saying that is going to be complicity. Silence is complicity. It’s complicity. We cannot remain silent.

“The venom of the haters and their weapons of war, the violence in the words and deeds that — that stalk our streets, our stores, our schools — this venom, this violence cannot be the story of our time,” he added. “We cannot allow that to happen.

“We have to refuse to live in a country where Black people going about a weekly grocery shopping can be gunned down by weapons of war deployed in a racist cause,” the president continued. “We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and for profit. We must all enlist in this great cause of America.

“This is work that requires all of us — presidents and politicians, commentators, citizens. None of us can stay in the sidelines,” he said. “We have to resolve here in Buffalo that from the tragedy — this tragedy — will come hope and light and life. It has to. And on our watch, the sacred cause of America will never bow, never break, never bend. And the America we love — the one we love — will endure.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul addresses town hall meeting. Office of Governor Kathy Hochul/Mike Groll

Earlier on Tuesday, Gov. Hochul joined President Biden at Delavan Grider Community Center in Buffalo to grieve with the community in the wake of the senseless mass shooting.

“This is a lot of emotion,” said Hochul, who is from Buffalo. “Our hearts are literally broken in two. One half grieves so deeply for the families and some of them are with us today. And I cannot imagine the searing pain that just must be going through your bodies to think that you’re loved one is no longer with us. We’re still trying to comprehend this.

“But there’s also this other side of our broken heart that is filled with some anger. And it’s because we’re human beings,” she added. “You can’t witness what happened to this community, where an individual who is radicalized in the beliefs of white supremacy and nationalism, who was so taken with these philosophies that are now becoming way too mainstream. They’re not just in the dark web anymore. They’re starting to percolate up. Elected officials are starting to embrace them and talk about them and you hear about them in Congress by certain people. And you hear about them on cable shows.

“It’s not just buried in the web anywhere,” the governor continued. “So, these hateful philosophies are starting to become mainstream. And they took hold in the mind of an 18-year-old, who lives three hours from here. He targeted this community intentionally coming to this zip code because he could do maximum damage and death to people, not just any New Yorker, but he was targeting and wanted to execute Black New Yorkers.

“That’s hard to comprehend, the depth of that hate,” Hochul said. “And it wasn’t that alone though. You could have that hate in your heart and you can sit in your house and ferment these evil thoughts, but you can’t act on it unless you have a weapon. And that’s the intersection of these two crises in our nation right now; the mainstreaming of the hate speech and the racism and everything else that brought that person to this point, but also the access to military-style weapons and magazines.”

She said it was “that lethal combination that resulted in the loss of 10 decent, good people. We pray for them, but they’re not with us because of that combination.

“So, this is not just a call to action for the people of Buffalo, and they are rising up,” Hochul said. “You cannot believe the depth of their spirit and their resiliency. I’ve been embraced them, I’ve hugged them. I’ve cried with them. We will get through this, because this is Buffalo. We’re tough.”

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