Biden heads to Buffalo to mourn shooting victims

BUFFALO — President Biden on Tuesday called on Americans to “face the haters” and “reject the lie” of racial replacement that allegedly...


BUFFALO — President Biden on Tuesday called on Americans to “face the haters” and “reject the lie” of racial replacement that allegedly prompted a white man to gun down black shoppers on Saturday in the latest eruption of violence targeting people of color in the United States. What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism,” Mr. Biden told mourners in this upstate New York town. “Violence inflicted in the service of hatred and the vicious lust for power that defines a group of people as inherently inferior to any other group, a hatred that, through media and politics, the Internet, has radicalized individuals into angry, alienated, lost and isolated in the mistaken belief that they will be replaced.

This so called replacement theorythe idea that an elite cabal of liberals is plotting to substitute immigrants or other people of color for white Americans, has become increasingly common talking point on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and among some Republican leaders. Although Mr Biden did not specify names, he accused some politicians and pundits of deliberately promoting conspiracy theory and stoking racial animosity out of a cynical desire to score political points and make money .

“Me and all of you reject the lie,” Mr. Biden said. “I call on all Americans to reject the lie, and I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and profit.”

His use of the term “domestic terrorism” represented a stark contrast to his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, whose administration discouraged homeland security analysts from even uttering the words. Mr. Biden also said emphatically that “white supremacy is poison,” the kind of unequivocal repudiation that Mr. Trump sometimes seemed reluctant to issue.

“We can do it if we choose to do it, if we go after the haters and the people who don’t care,” Biden said. “It’s just a matter of profit and politics.”

But he didn’t go as far as some on the left wanted in directly condemning specific purveyors of replacement theory and other racial provocations.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said Mr Biden did not want to elevate these people by identifying them.

“The people spreading this filth know who they are and they should be ashamed of themselves,” she told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One. “But I’m not going to give them or their obnoxious ideas that they push the attention they desperately want.”

Traveling to Buffalo three days after the rampage that killed 10 people, Mr Biden was confronted with the kind of violent white extremism on display in 2017, when neo-Nazis and right-wing militias marched on Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr Biden has often said the episode prompted him to run for president to undertake a “battle for the soul of America”. But the cautious line he drew underscored the challenge for a president who came to power preaching unity to figure out how to confront those who preach hate.

When Mr. Biden speaks more assertively about divisive politics, such as on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, he has been accused of breaking his own promise to bring harmony to the the country, leaving it in a kind of political box. , trapped by his desire to be a unifier while feeling compelled to confront forces that are tearing the country apart.

Ms Jean-Pierre said Mr Biden’s visit was primarily to comfort “the families of the 10 people whose lives were so senseless in this horrific shooting” and recalled Charlottesville.

“Looking at what happened in Charlottesville was a major factor in the president’s decision to run,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said Monday. “A lot of those dark voices still exist today, and the president is determined as he was then, and he is determined today to make sure that we fight against these forces of hate, of evil. and violence.”

But some Buffalo residents found the words unsatisfying. “I don’t care what Biden said. I want to see some action,” said Toni Arrington, 27, a hairstylist who stood outside the community center where the president spoke. “I want to see our community get help. I want people to be really protected. We work, we pay taxes, we pay for our protection and we don’t get it.

During his short stay in Buffalo, Mr. Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited the Tops Market Memorial and met with law enforcement officials and relatives of the victims.

The bloodshed has once again renewed the national gun control debate, a prime example of Washington’s crippled politics, but the president has made no specific policy announcements beyond his continued support. ban on assault rifles.

As a senator, Mr Biden helped pass a 10-year ban on assault weapons in the 1990s. As vice president, he helped craft a package of reforms after the massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

The Obama administration issued nearly two dozen modest executive actions, but failed to pass any legislation. The Biden administration has also struggled to pass gun control legislation. Last year, Mr. Biden called Gun violence in the United States “an international embarrassment” and took steps to resolve the problem, beginning with a crackdown on the proliferation of so-called ghost gunsor firearms assembled from kits.

But the gun lobby’s hold on the Republican Party is unwavering, and action on initiatives like universal background checks and an assault weapons ban remains stalled in part because of the narrow partisan division in the Senate.

Speaking to reporters before returning to Air Force One in Washington on Tuesday, Biden said there was little he could do by executive action to restrict access to guns. and that he needed to “convince Congress” to pass tougher gun laws, which he acknowledged would be “very difficult”.

“Part of what the country needs to do is look in the mirror and face reality,” he said. “We have a problem with inner terror. It’s true.”

Mr Biden has taken steps to focus government resources on preventing attacks by domestic extremists after the country spent decades prioritizing the threat of foreign terrorism. In a 2019 conversation with Janet Napolitano, a former Homeland Security Secretary, Mr Biden recalled the Obama administration’s decision in 2009 to quash a report warning that US military veterans were vulnerable to the recruitment by extremist groups. Mr Biden said he believed Ms Napolitano was “foresighted in speaking about right-wing extremism and violence in America and driven by white supremacists”.

But the United States has at times struggled to directly recognize, let alone develop an effective response, to the threat of domestic extremism. The Trump administration has cut funding for grants to nonprofits and law enforcement agencies that focus on domestic terrorism, cutting the Department of Homeland Security’s budget by $20 million under the administration. Obama less than $3 million before much of the funding is restored in 2020.

Some White House officials have also sought to remove the phrase ‘domestic terrorism’ as Mr Trump’s Justice Department shifts federal prosecutors and FBI agents from investigating violent white supremacists to cases involving rioters. or anarchists.

“You have to know who your enemy is and what the threat is,” said Elizabeth Neumann, assistant secretary of homeland security for counterterrorism and threat prevention in the Trump administration. “Trump never wanted to acknowledge it. Biden has.

But she said that even with the president’s willingness to portray the threat of deadly white supremacy, the federal government hasn’t made enough headway in working with authorities to prevent violent extremism.

In June, the Biden administration unveiled a national counter violent extremism strategycalling for additional hiring of intelligence analysts, improved collaboration with social media companies to remove violent videos and increased funding for digital literacy programs to train the public to identify hateful content and to resist recruitment by extremists.

The FBI released three times more domestic terrorism assessments for local authorities in 2021 than the year before, according to a senior official. But the official also acknowledged the difficulty of controlling extremist language on online platforms or that amplified by commentators while the government abides by the First Amendment.

Ms Napolitano, who sits on Mr Biden’s intelligence advisory board, said it was clear the United States had not made enough progress in preventing extremist attacks since the violence in Charlottesville.

“Treat it almost like a disease rather than a crime so we can diagnose better in advance,” Ms Napolitano said. “I think the bully pulpit is the president’s strongest role.”

New York Democrat and Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was traveling with Mr. Biden on Tuesday, directly called out far-right Republicans and Mr. Carlson for amplifying themes that are central to the replacement theory. of white supremacy.

“The subtext is clear,” Schumer said Monday. “These far-right MAGA Republicans argue that people of color and minority communities are somehow a threat — a threat — to the American way of life. That’s replacement theory in a nutshell.

Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, said true unification of the country requires directly exposing these amplifying theories influencing domestic extremism.

“Some people say when you do that you’re divisive,” Morial said. But such claims amounted to a “diversion”, he added.

“You unite people around a goal,” he said. “You don’t unite people to be united.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from Buffalo and Peter Baker from Washington. Jesse McKinley and Lola Fadulu contributed to Buffalo reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden heads to Buffalo to mourn shooting victims
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