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President Biden offered both consolations and a call to reject racism, extremism and white supremacy Tuesday during a visit to Buffalo. The president delivered his remarks less than 72 hours after a white supremacist allegedly shot 13 people, killing 10, in an attack on African Americans in the city. Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Buffalo.
President Biden offered both consolation and a call to reject racism, extremism and white supremacy during a visit to Buffalo, New York, today.
The president delivered his remarks less than 72 hours after police say that a white supremacist shot 13 people, killing 10 of them, in an attack on Black Americans in the city.
Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Buffalo.
Today, President Biden and the first lady, hand in hand, paid their respects at the makeshift memorial outside of Tops supermarket, then met privately with families of the 10 victims killed during a racist rampage at the site in an eastern neighborhood of Buffalo, New York.
The president condemned the gunman for his targeted pursuit of Black people in the store.
President Joe Biden:
What happened here is simple and straightforward, terrorism, domestic terrorism, violence inflicted in the service of hate. White supremacy is a poison.
Receiving calls for stronger federal regulation of guns, the president said there's little that can be done by executive action.
But he did call out the spread of racist ideology online as a motivation for such attacks.
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.
Biden was referring to a false idea known as Replacement Theory.
Today, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked to speak out against that idea and declined.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
Well, certainly, the episode, this horrible episode in Buffalo is a result of a completely deranged young man who ought to suffer the severest possible penalty under the law.
Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, there were new details about the accused gunman and the alleged plot leading up to the massacre on Saturday.
Diary entries discovered on the platform Discord indicate he had planned as early as November to livestream an attack on African Americans. He also traveled from his hometown over 200 miles away in March to scope out the Tops store.
Dr. Kenyani Davis, Community Health Center of Buffalo: You're going to see a lot of PTSD, a lot of trauma.
Dr. Kenyani Davis, chief medical officer of the Community Health Center of Buffalo, spent yesterday providing mental health counseling and support to employees of Tops, many of whom told her they had interacted with the alleged gunman on previous days.
Dr. Kenyani Davis:
He did. He came in prior and told them — it was the day before — that he was going to — he was going to come back and kill him. And the employee said, oh, OK.
People have guilt. Not only do they have survivor's guilt, but they have remorse because he's like, I checked him out. I had a conversation with him. I talked to him days prior.
This morning, she was still processing what she heard.
My first gentleman that I counseled, when he recounted being in a freezer and hearing the shots come through, and when the police escorted him out, and he had to walk over bodies, he literally described everybody, what they were wearing, who it was, and said he can never unsee that.
I don't think I can unhear that, you know?
For some residents, the crime scene has become a place to grieve and reflect; 61-year-old Eric Watts brought two of his grandsons. As they looked on, he shared advice no child should have to hear.
Eric Watts, East Buffalo Resident:
Be aware. You got to be aware of your surroundings, guys. Keep your eyes open. Be vigilant.
Watts, who learned Monday night that one of his relatives was killed in the shooting, grew up in the neighborhood. Now he and his wife, Betty, are raising five of their grandchildren in a house just minutes away from the Tops supermarket.
You brought some of your grandchildren there today.
What were you trying to have them see there?
Racism is still here after all these years. And I was trying to convey to them to be careful wherever you go
Do you worry about their safety?
I do. Every day they leave home, I worry about their safety. I keep my kids around me. I go to the store, I take them with me now.
That must be hard.
It is. Why do you have to live like that? Why do we have to live like that now?
Watts and some in the community are upset at the way the alleged gunman was treated during his arrest.
How many of our African Americans are getting killed in the streets for just holding a gun? How many of our African Americans are getting killed in the streets by the police for not complying?
This white guy killed 10 people, allegedly killed 10 people, and had a chance to walk out the store.
Watts was living in South Carolina in 2015 when a gunman opened fire at a Black church in Charleston, killing nine.
To see that happen in South Carolina and then happen here Saturday, it brought back memories. It brought back such memories that — that overfilled me again. This one hurts more. This one hurts more because it's home.
But that home is one of the most segregated places in America. About 85 percent of Buffalo's Black residents live on the East Side, where the Tops supermarket opened in 2003, after a long community-led campaign.
The area has experienced decades of systemic racism from discriminatory housing practices to the construction of a highway that split the community in half. Now the poverty rate is far higher than the rest of the city. And researchers say key measures, such as income, education and health, are worse than 30 years ago.
Dr. Kenyani Davis says the shooting was the ultimate injustice for a community that's had more than its share.
This individual from three or four hours away, who doesn't even live in our community, who knows that we have these injustices, know that we had these structural racism, know that we had these issues, and felt comfortable enough, knowing that this is where I was going to be able to target the most Black people.
That lets you know how bad these issues really are, when it's not just a local thing.
But in the days since the massacre, Buffalo residents have also shown their resilience and unity, launching a number of food drives for those impacted by the supermarket's closure, people like lifelong East Side resident Latasha Pouncey.
Latasha Pouncey, East Buffalo Resident:
It's sad that we have to come together for a tragedy like this for people to come to help the community. But it's nice to see that people are coming together.
Residents we have spoken to over the past couple days say they want to see action, not just words, from the president on gun violence, threats from white supremacy and racial inequality more broadly.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Cat Wise in Buffalo, New York
Watch the Full Episode
Sam Lane is reporter/producer in PBS NewsHour's segment unit.
Frank Carlson is a general assignment producer at the PBS NewsHour, where he's been making video since 2010. @frankncarlson
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