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The relatives of the victims of the Buffalo massacre: “Facebook and Twitch are also responsible for our pain” | International

Wayne Jones learned that his mother, Celestine Chaney, was one of the 10 fatalities in last Saturday’s racist Buffalo massacre at a popular neighborhood grocery store, when a photo of her lying on the floor was emailed to him. , with the barrel of an assault weapon pointed at his head. Someone had captured the image of the broadcast of the shooting that the murderer, Payton Gendron, made on the Twitch platform, Amazon’s tool for sharing live clips, especially popular among video game lovers.

Jones always accompanied his mother to the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue, as he recalled with tears in his eyes, in an interview with EL PAÍS in Buffalo. That day, due to a leg injury, he missed his appointment. Next to her, Aunt Dee was also crying as she remembered that she learned of her sister-in-law’s death in such a terrible way. “I got a video that I opened without thinking. Now I can’t sleep at night. I think Twitch and Facebook are also responsible for our pain,” she said. Wayne Jones Jr., Celestine’s grandson, went further: “72 hours have passed and the video is still circulating, it’s outrageous. It appears here and there, on someone’s wall, or in a random message. This is how the hatred that exists after the murder of my grandmother is perpetuated. If we weren’t black, surely this wouldn’t happen.”

Signs, balloons and police tape are wrapped around a pole across from Tops Friendly Market on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Buffalo, NY Tops, the Buffalo grocery store where 10 Black people were killed in a racist shooting rampage, was more than a place to buy groceries.  As the only supermarket for thousands, residents say the store was a sort of community hub where they chatted with neighbors and caught up on each other's lives.  (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
Signs, balloons and police tape are wrapped around a pole across from Tops Friendly Market on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Buffalo, NY Tops, the Buffalo grocery store where 10 Black people were killed in a racist shooting rampage, was more than a place to buy groceries. As the only supermarket for thousands, residents say the store was a sort of community hub where they chatted with neighbors and caught up on each other’s lives. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)Joshua Bessex (AP)

Twitch acted quickly on Saturday; Apparently, it took two minutes for them to remove the content, according to a spokesperson for the company, which is facing a reputation crisis that is difficult to tackle due to the very nature of its business: how to control the barrage of millions of videos that every day air without prior supervision? In hindsight, things are not easy either: by the time Gendron’s was deleted, it was already circulating freely through other channels, such as Reddit or Facebook.

This Wednesday it was also known that the shooter, who received much of the indoctrination from those same social networks that turned an 18-year-old boy into a white supremacist, someone whom President Joe Biden has defined as “an internal terrorist”, He invited a group of users of the Discord messaging service to discuss his macabre plans half an hour before getting into the car that would take him on the more than three-hour journey that separates his town, Conklin, in the south of the State, from Buffalo. None of the participants in that chat notified the police. The Attorney General of the State of New York, Letitia James, who has been in Buffalo for almost the entire week, announced this Wednesday an investigation into the responsibility of these platforms in what happened: “That an individual can publish detailed plans about an act of hate like this, with no consequences, and then broadcasting it for the world to see, it’s just chilling.”

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The pain and impotence of Chaney’s relatives for having seen the images they wish they had not seen, was repeated in the testimonies collected from many of those close to him who gathered Tuesday in a gymnasium of a civic center near the supermarket to receive the visit and consolation from Biden. The president stopped at his speech at each of them, all African-American men and women.

He defined Chaney as “a brain tumor survivor, churchgoer and bingo lover.” School bus driver Margus Ardie, 52, met her death when he “went for trinkets for the family Saturday night movie plan.” Geraldine Talley, 62, “was a good friend and a devoted mother and grandmother.” And if Ruth Whitfield, 88, liked to “participate in the church choir, and was dedicated to taking care of her husband, whom she visited every day in the nursing home”, Pearl Young, 77, “loved to sing , dance and his family”.

Later, the mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, especially remembered before a group of journalists in the area still cordoned off around the supermarket, which, four days later, is still closed, of another of those killed, Aaron Salter. A 55-year-old retired police officer who worked as a sworn guard at the Tops responded with his weapon to Gendron’s attack, who arrived equipped with professional military equipment, including a bulletproof vest, and was later detained by the police. Among his plans was to continue killing in other parts of the neighborhood.

How to overcome sadness and anxiety?

The relatives of Andre Mackniel, 53, whom Biden defined as a “restaurant worker who went to buy a birthday cake for his three-year-old son”, are comforted unless these tragic events have put the spotlight on his community. The priest Tim Newkirk, who accompanied a brother and a niece of Mackniel, warned that “the neighborhood will come out of this.” “We will not tolerate hatred, racism or terrorism to win.” Taniqua Simmons, who came with a megaphone to launch anti-racist slogans from outside the perimeter delineated by the secret services for Biden’s visit, was not so optimistic: “To many this neighborhood will seem like a dangerous place, and it can be, but I had never felt fear in my life until now. To overcome this sadness and anxiety, we will need some tools that we unfortunately do not have.”

A man embraces a woman near the scene of a weekend shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, US May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A man embraces a woman near the scene of a weekend shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, US May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidBRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)

The history of the two cities that make up Buffalo, in the western end of the State of New York, is told from Main Street. The main street divides it geographically between the east, poor and mostly black, and the west, white and with a higher economic level, although everywhere you can feel the history of ups and downs of a population that lived its splendor at the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the steel industry, which was hit hard by deindustrialization in the 1980s and which, as recalled from Oakland (California) by the African-American writer Ishmael Reed, author of the anti-racist classic mumbo jumbo, it was “one of the stopping places on the journey of black slaves to the freedom that awaited them in Canada.” “Racial tensions,” Reed adds, “are no strangers to Buffalo. Especially when the Great Migration from the south to the north took place, and the black population grew enormously.”

The victims of the racist slaughter are the descendants of those who came in search of fortune and settled in the east of the city. The killer chose that supermarket precisely because it served the area with the highest concentration of African-American population in New York State. He also considered, according to the local press, other destinations, such as a Walmart in Rochester or a shopping center in Syracuse.

“We all know each other here,” says Brenda McDuffie. “That supermarket is the place where we were. It is a part of our lives, which has been taken from us by an individual who did not act alone, he had the support of others”, he adds, referring to the defenders, among the ranks of the Republican Party and among the list of famous radio announcers. cable television, of the Great Replacement Theory, which spreads the hoax that the white population is being replaced by immigrants and minorities that are easier to manipulate in a master plan concocted by the elites of the left.

McDuffie was for 20 years director of the Buffalo Urban League, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to the city’s black community. One of her greatest achievements, she recalls, was persuading Tops, a supermarket company that operates in the Northeast, that Jefferson Avenue was a safe place to do business. After the massacre on Saturday, no one is convinced of that anymore.

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