The Erie County District Attorney’s Office (northern New York) has confirmed that Payton S. Gendron, an 18-year-old white man who killed 10 people, mostly black, in a supermarket in Buffalo (New York) on Saturday , acted moved by “racist motivations”. Gendron, already described as a white supremacist by the authorities, will appear before the judge on Tuesday. The charge of murder in the first degree (with premeditation and treachery) can cost you life in prison, since in the State of New York there is no death penalty. At his appearance before the judge on Saturday night for his arraignment, Gendron remained impassive, without any hint of emotion, and pleaded not guilty.
Of the shooting victims, 10 dead and three injured whose lives do not appear to be in danger, 11 are black and two are white. Armed with an assault rifle and military equipment, including a bulletproof vest and a helmet with a built-in camera to broadcast his action live, he chose a Tops chain supermarket, located in a lower-class neighborhood with a majority African-American population, in the antipodes of the homogeneous white county where the killer lived with his parents and siblings. The video platform Twitch, which belongs to Amazon, cut off the broadcast of the shooting two minutes after it started. It showed the beginnings of the horror: Genton’s arrival by car at the scene, the parking lot and his determined steps towards the first victim, a woman in a tank top and Bermuda shorts leaving the establishment. Four of the dead fell into the parking. The rest inside. “There were dead bodies everywhere,” a customer told local media.
The radicalization of the supremacist Genton, via the internet, took a step forward in May 2020, when, due to the boredom of the pandemic, he began to frequent forums such as 4chan, in which he learned about the conspiracy theory of the great replacement or substitution, according to which whites run the risk of being replaced by populations of other races. As he relates in a 180-page manifesto that he posted on the Internet, the details of which have been disclosed by the newspaper New York Times, he “passively” prepared for the Buffalo attack for years, buying ammunition and equipment while taking frequent target practice. In January, the plan germinated.
Genton appears to be a lone wolf, deranged by hatred, capable of writing 180 pages detailing his plan to kill the largest number of blacks in the city with the highest percentage of African-American population in his state. A boy equipped with an assault rifle —on the barrel of which he had painted the worst possible insult to someone of color in white, according to US media, which did not specify the disqualification—, with a camera to retransmit the carnage as the white supremacist who attacked two mosques in New Zealand and left fifty dead in 2019, one of its models. A lone and mimetic wolf: it was also inspired by the El Paso massacre, in 2019, in which a white man traveled for hours through Texas – as Genton did this Saturday along 320 kilometers through the State of New York- to attack the Latino population in a department store, with 23 dead. The El Paso killer left his motives posted on the internet, a statement of hate. Like Brenton Tarrat, the killer from New Zealand. Like Genton himself: a nauseatingly detailed account of where to park, where to eat before committing the attack, how to go through every aisle of the supermarket and finish off, if he could, every black man with a shot in the chest.
Genton is the product of a deadly cocktail: the intoxication of conspiracy theories such as the great replacement, previously limited to the extreme right, but thanks to televangelists like the populist Tucker Carlson and some Republican politicians, has become mainstream; plus the ease of access to weapons, a fact that raises, once again, the long-standing debate on arms control. All this within the framework of a wave of rampant armed violence, described as an epidemic by the White House.
The pressing need to regulate access to firearms was emphasized on Saturday by the group March for our Lives, made up of students from the Parkland (Florida) high school that was the scene of a mass shooting in 2018: What happened in Buffalo shows “the failure” of US politicians, they said. “Our country should have done everything in its power much sooner to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Instead, the cult of guns in the United States fuels this white supremacist violence,” the group said in a tweet. Several Democratic congressmen also discreetly pointed out the need to strengthen control, accusing the Republicans of torpedoing again and again any legislative initiative, which leaves states and municipalities the power to enact their own rules.
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This does not seem like the most favorable moment —in the middle of the campaign for the complicated mid-term elections— to raise again a potentially explosive issue, which traces one of the many failures between Republicans and Democrats. The polarization that Donald Trump’s mandate threw off, taken to its maximum consequences, is also in the chamber of the Buffalo massacre.
“A heinous massacre by a white supremacist,” Buffalo native Kathy Hochul tweeted on Saturday night. He was the first politician to give a name and surname to a core threat to the security of the United States: that of internal or domestic extremism. In the 20 years since 9/11, far-right extremists have killed more people in the US than Islamist terrorists based in the country. FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress last September that the assault on Capitol Hill was not an isolated incident and that “the problem of domestic terrorism has been spreading across the country for several years.” This is confirmed by the records, since 2014, with exponential growth, especially pronounced in 2020 and 2021.
Wray added that white supremacists constitute “the majority representation of domestic terrorism in general” and “have been responsible for the deadliest attacks in the last decade.” Examples are not lacking, such as the murder of nine black parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white man, in 2015. Dylann Roof, the man who shot up the church, is one of the names cited by Genton, although he says feel a special connection with the New Zealand supremacist, “the one who radicalized me the most”, as he has recorded, with the expertise of a notary and the delirium of someone completely lacking in judgment, in that hate memo.