Benjamin Crump, a noted civil rights attorney who is representing one of the 10 victims of the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., condemned the killings on Monday and called for accountability for those who promoted the racist ideology that police say motivated the alleged gunman.
“What happened on Saturday was an act of domestic terrorism,” he said at a news conference surrounded by relatives of Ruth Whitfield, an 86-year-old grandmother who was killed in the attack.
“We have to define it as such,” he said. “We can’t sugarcoat it. We can’t try to explain it away, talking about mental illness. No. This was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a young white supremacist. There is no question about his intentions.”
Authorities say the 18-year-old suspect, Payton Gendron, posted a manifesto online detailing his plans to target Buffalo’s Black population, driving nearly 300 miles from his home in Conklin, N.Y., to carry out the attack. The 180-page manifesto contained a litany of racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories, including the “great replacement” theory that white Americans are at risk of being replaced by people of color through immigration.
The baseless, once-fringe conspiracy theory has been echoed by Republican politicians and right-wing media figures, including Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
The suspect was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty. Federal authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
“Just like America responds to terrorism, America needs to respond to this act of bigotry, racism and hate,” Crump said as several family members, overcome with grief, broke down.
“In that manifesto, he made his intentions clear,” he continued. “He went to Tops supermarket here in Buffalo, N.Y., in this predominantly African American community, with the objective to kill as many Black people as he could. That was his objective.”
Crump said the family intends to hold accountable not only “this sick, depraved monster for his hateful act,” but also “the people that curate the hate” on websites, cable news and Capitol Hill.
“Those people … radicalize these young people to go out and orchestrate heinous acts of violence,” he said. “We have to get to the root of the hate. Because if we don’t get to the root of the hate, then, sadly, I believe we will be back here again grieving the loss of other innocent Black people.”
Crump suggested that politicians and pundits who push the replacement theory are “accomplices” in Saturday’s murderous rampage. “Even though they may not have pulled the trigger,” he said, “they did load the gun.”
Crump was joined at the news conference by Whitfield’s four children, including Garnell Whitfield, a retired Buffalo fire commissioner.
“This is not some story to drive some news cycle,” he said. “This is our mother. This is our lives. We need help. Help us change this. This can’t keep happening.”