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'It's a poison': President Biden condemns white supremacy during speech in Buffalo

Biden in buffalo
Eileen Elibol
President Joe Biden speaks at the Delavan-Grider Community Center in Buffalo May 17, 2022, three days after a racially motivated mass shooting at a nearby Tops Market left 10 people dead.

President Joe Biden called white supremacy a “poison” to American politics and vowed to fight back against the ideology during his visit to Buffalo Tuesday, three days after a racially motivated mass shooting in a predominately Black part of the city left 10 people dead.

Biden, joined by First Lady Jill Biden, visited the Tops Market store where the shooting took place before meeting with the victims’ families and delivering remarks at the Delavan-Grider Community Center.

“White supremacy is a poison. It's a poison … running through our body politic,” Biden said during a 15-minute speech at the community center. “And it's been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes. No more. We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America.”

President Biden visits Tops memorial site
Lynn Bader
Buffalo Toronto Public Media
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit a memorial site near the Jefferson Avenue Tops Market May 17, 2022.

The president specifically denounced the racist conspiracy theory that the alleged gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, cited in writing as his motivation for attacking a predominantly Black neighborhood. The “Replacement Theory” falsely states that Democratic elites are bringing non-white individuals into the United States to "replace" white voters.

Conservative media outlets like Fox News have been criticized for bringing the theory into the mainstream. A recent poll by the Associated Press found that one in three American adults now believes in a version of the theory.

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

The president read the names and spoke about all 13 victims from Saturday’s shooting, 10 of whom have died. He told their families that he knows “what it's like to lose a piece of your soul.”

“You feel like there's a black hole in your chest, you're being sucked into and you're suffocating, unable to breathe,” he said. “We know it's hard to believe and you're probably not going to believe it, but I can tell you now … the day is going to come … as you remember [your lost loved one], it’s going to bring a smile to your lip before it brings a tear to your eye. It takes a while for that to happen.”

Biden landed at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport at approximately 9:45 a.m. His motorcade ride to the Tops on Jefferson Avenue temporarily shut down Route 33 West from Genesee Street to Goodell Street.

President Joe Biden visits Buffalo following mass shooting
Eileen Elibol
Buffalo Toronto Public Media
President Joe Biden speaks to a young girl at the Delavan-Grider Community Center in Buffalo May 17, 2022.

He and the first lady spent about 10 minutes at the site, laying flowers at a makeshift memorial at a tree on Landon Street and speaking with officials like Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown and New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

The Bidens then met privately with the victims’ families at the community center before Biden gave his speech.

He concluded his remarks by calling on all races to reject white supremacy.

“We have to refuse to live in a country where Black people going about a weekly grocery shopping can be gunned down by weapons of war deployed in a racist cause. We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged, for power, and for profit,” he said. “We must all enlist this great cause of America. This is work that requires all of us, presidents, politicians, commentators, citizens. None of us can stay on the sidelines.”

“We have to resolve that here in Buffalo, that from this tragedy will come hope and light and life. It has to.”

You can watch the speech below.

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