“We are not used to seeing presidents in this neighborhood,” says Rhonda, stationed behind the police cordon several blocks around with which the Buffalo police have encapsulated the horror that took over this city in the State of New York last Saturday. So an 18-year-old white supremacist named Payton Gendron, armed to the teeth and intoxicated with racist hatred, extreme nationalism and wild conspiracy theories, drove three hours to a popular supermarket on Jefferson Avenue, the social epicenter of one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the east of the city (278,000 inhabitants), famous for being the gateway to Niagara Falls, on the border with Canada. Gendron chose it because of its high percentage of black population. Before police apprehended him, he shot 13 people, 11 of them African American. He killed 10. Three days later, President Joe Biden —accompanied by the first lady, Jill Biden— has come here to comfort the families of the deceased and to meet with the leaders of a community torn between mourning and Rage.
“The devil came to Buffalo on Saturday,” Biden has said. “What has happened can only be defined as domestic terrorism. White supremacy is poison. We cannot remain silent in the face of these massacres”, he added, and has referred to tragedies such as those in “Charlottesville, Charleston, Atlanta or El Paso”, all place names that bear the memory of white supremacism in the United States, an epidemic on the rise in recent years.
Biden has charged on several occasions against “those who spread those lies in search of power, political gain or simple benefit.” She was referring to the conspiracy known as the Great Replacement Theory, according to which the elites of the left are disempowering whites by allowing the uncontrolled entry of immigrants or by facilitating access to the vote for minorities. That belief has found an echo with some Republican lawmakers of late, as well as with Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s powerful speaker, arguably his most famous apologist.
Before addressing relatives, politicians and members of the press in the gym of a civic center near the supermarket, the president of the United States visited the place where the shooting began at around 10:00, the parking lot of the Tops Market, which is still closed since the weekend, like the rest of the shops in the area. This forced closure has caused a shortage of fresh products in the area, which tries to alleviate the solidarity of the neighbors.
Dozens of them, inhabitants of a neighborhood of dilapidated wooden houses, vacant lots and barbershops and beauty salons, waited for him behind the yellow and black “No trespassing” tapes. Some carried handwritten “Black Lives Matter” or “Stop the Hate” signs. One, Derek Reese, explained to EL PAÍS that on Saturday he lost two friends: “the policeman and the taxi driver.” The people of East Buffalo, between desolation and stupor, already refer to the victims like this, by their professions. The retired cop was named Aaron Salter. The taxi driver, Heyward Patterson, who was also a deacon at the local church. “Those guys were really good people. It could have been any of us. It is going to be very difficult to recover from this blow, ”says Reese. “Just now that we were beginning to overcome some of our problems, this tragedy happens… This area is eaten up by drugs.”
As Biden spoke with the victims, some disconsolate cries could be heard on the other side of the curtains, from the area set aside for the press. Biden has shown in his 15 months in office that he is comfortable in his role as “comforter-in-chief.” He has taken his time with them. Dee Davis, daughter-in-law of one of the murdered, Celestine Chaney has explained that she “showed her empathy”. “She has not come just to take the photo,” she added.
Before Biden, who has reviewed the names of all the victims, Kathy Hochul has spoken, who in addition to being the governor of New York is “daughter of Buffalo”, and that is why she asked for the victory for a local neologism: Buffalove (which results from adding Búfalo and amor, in English) before “that hatred that is no longer residual, but rather spreads in the corridors of Congress and in the prime-time cable television programs.
After Hochul, there was also time for, among other speakers, Chuck Schumer, representative from New York and leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate. “I advocated a lot for the construction of the Tops Market [lugar del tiroteo]. It was important to guarantee access to healthy food for the residents of a particularly hard-hit area. We could not imagine to what extent it was going to end up being a social meeting place”.
Nor could it have been imagined that Saturday would become the scene of one of the most tragic racist massacres of recent times in the United States. The author of it, a boy who was able to buy an AR-15 rifle without problems, which he manipulated so that he could load more ammunition than the factory allowed, will appear again this Thursday before the judge.
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