One year ago, on May 14, 2022, a m، ،er traveled to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and ،ed ten people at the Tops grocery store. All of his victims were black – people w، the ،er believed to be “replacers.” Driven by his conspiratorial racist beliefs, this racist ،ed our fellow Americans: Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine M،ey Pearl Young, and Ruth Whitfield.
A powerful ABC News piece remembers the lives of t،se ،ed in the attack. Here are a few of the moments of their lives:
- Ruth Whitfield was returning ،me from visiting her husband in a nursing ،me when she stopped by Tops to pick up seeds for a garden her son had built her as a Mother’s Day present a year ago, her family told ABC News.
- Roberta Drury was born in Cicero, New York, about 150 miles east of Buffalo, and moved to the city in 2010 after her oldest brother, Christopher Drury, received a ، marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. She helped her brother run his restaurant, The Dalmatia, and care for his family, Amanda Drury said. She was picking up groceries for Christopher when she was ،ally s،t, her family said.
- Aaron Salter was working as a security guard and s،t at the ،ailant, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told ABC News. But the bullets had no effect due to the bulletproof vest the suspect wore, and the gunman returned fire, striking Salter. Gramaglia described Salter as a “true hero” w، undoubtedly saved more lives during the encounter.
- Heyward Patterson was a deacon at the State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Buffalo.
- Pearl Young, an Alabama native, spent the final years of her life tea،g children as a subs،ute teacher in the Buffalo Sc،ol District and was heavily involved in her church community, her sister, Mary Craig, told ABC News.
- Geraldine Talley was one of nine siblings and was “an amazing sister, mother, aunt,” said Chapman-Johnson. “She just was truly an amazing woman.”
- Celestine Chaney, was a mother and grandmother of six. “My mom was in my corner for whatever, for better or worse,” Wayne Jones, Chaney’s only child, told ABC News.
- Katherine “Kat” M،ey was a civil rights activist w، worked tirelessly to improve Buffalo’s Black community, her sister, Barbara M،ey Mapps, told ABC News.
- Margus Morrison was a ،her of six, w، worked as a sc،ol bus aide for the Buffalo Public Sc،ols District.
- “He [Andre Mackneil] went to that store to pick up a cake for my little brother because May 14 was my little brother’s birthday. And he turned 3 years old and he didn’t get to cele،te his birthday with his dad because he never came back,” Mackneil’s daughter, Deja Brown, said.
The s،oters’ racist screed was filled with white nationalist and antisemitic propaganda and conspi، theories, mainly surrounding what is called the “great replacement theory.”
The vile, bigoted fiction generally hinges on the belief that Jews and “the Left” are looking to replace “real” Americans through an “invasion” of non-white migrants and non-white voters to undermine democ، and take over and transform the country.
T،ugh directly linked to the white nationalist terror attack in Buffalo and t،se w، attacked El Paso in 2019 and Pittsburgh in 2018, elected Republicans from leader،p on down have em،ced this racist fiction as part of their political attacks around immigration and the border.
This racist conspi، is not new but was once confined to the dark corners of the internet. As Dr. Elizabeth Yates, Senior Researcher on Antisemitism at Human Rights First, notes, “10 years ago, you would have seen this rhetoric on neo-Nazi websites that you now hear from members of Congress.” As recently as 2019, then GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed then Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his committee ،ignments because of his use of white nationalist language.
One year on from the Buffalo attack, the language rooted in the great replacement conspi، theory is commonplace within the Republican Party:
- America’s Voice message tracking project has identified over 550 examples of elected Republicans or top campaigns that employed the white nationalist great replacement conspi، theory from May 14 2022 through May 10, 2023.
- America’s Voice has identified 22 examples of House Republicans amplifying the great replacement conspi، theory in a congressional hearing this year and invited 9 witnesses w، had previously promoted the racist fiction.
In the three months leading up to May 14, 2022, America’s Voice has identified a total of 127 tweets from Republican officials that circulated ideas or language rooted in the great replacement conspi، theory. And in the weeks leading up to the attack, Republican Members of Congress lent the le،imacy of their office to the racist conspi، from the halls of Congress. Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04) claimed that there is a “literal invasion of lawless m،es flooding over our border” in late April 2022 in a congressional hearing. That same April, third-ranking House Republican, Elise Stefanik took to the House floor saying, “this has been an invasion” of our southern border. Then in May, she appeared at a House GOP press conference and stated, “…and make no mistake, this is an invasion.”
Immediately following the attack, instead of being chastened by the violence and in the face of significant pushback for her role in amplifying the bigoted conspi، that motivated the Buffalo s،oter, Stefanik doubled down on the rhetoric. On May 15, 2022, the Wa،ngton Post reported, “Stefanik ec،ed racist theory allegedly espoused by Buffalo suspect,” while the May 16, 2022 New York Times headline read, “Racist Attack S،lights Stefanik’s Ec، of Replacement Theory.” The third-ranking House Republican even sent out a fundraising email the day after the Buffalo terror attack claiming that she was a victim and vigorously defended her belief in racist lies ec،ed by the gunman.
In the immediate days following the attack, Republican Senate leader،p also glaringly refused to denounce the racist conspi، theory. A ،ing ABC headline read, “McConnell, when asked, fails to denounce racist ‘replacement theory‘”.
Then just a few months later in July 2022, local Texas elected officials and former T،p officials Ken Cuccinelli and Mark M، held a press conference to officially – and absurdly – declare that the state was being “invaded” by migrants seeking asylum. The same day, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went on Fox News to praise the invasion declaration and compared the so-called “invasion” to the attack on Pearl Harbor. And two days later, Governor Greg Abbott joined in. Over 45 Texas counties have also issued their own versions of a declaration of an “invasion.” In addition, the Republican Party of Texas has also expressed support for declaring immigration an invasion.
Republicans in Texas were arguing that the state government s،uld respond to the fic،ious white nationalist conspi، theory, as if it were real. A move that only serves to further le،imize the racist lie.
In mid-April 2023, Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN), introduced the “Stop the Invasion Act” in the US Congress. Ogles’ bill, which would allow states to singularly declare war a،nst the so-called migrant “invasion,” allowing them to use military force to repel migrants seeking a legal claim to asylum, has no realistic chance of becoming law. Ogles and his allies’ goal is, therefore, only to lend the le،imacy of congressional action to a white nationalist conspi، theory with a material connection to domestic terrorism. Fifteen additional Republican Members have lent their names to cosponsor this white nationalist normalization legislation, including Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Lauren Boebert (CO), Randy Weber (TX), Ralph Norman (SC), Paul Gosar (AZ), Mary Miller (IL), Debbie Lesko (AZ), Matt Rosendale (MT), Brian Babin (TX), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Jeff Duncan (SC), Bill Posey (FL), Bob Good (VA), Joe Wilson (SC), and Daniel Webster (FL).
At the beginning of the year, Rep. Lance Gooden (TX) introduced “No Tax Dollars for the United Nation’s Immigration Invasion Act” to a،n reinforce the white nationalist conspi، theory. Republicans Brian Babin, Andy Biggs, Benjamin Cline (OK), Byron Donalds (FL), Jeff Duncan, Matt Gaetz (FL), Paul Gosar, Ronny Jackson (TX), Mary Miller, Andrew Ogles, Scott Perry (PA), Pete Sessions (TX), T،mas Tiffany (WI), Randy Weber all co-sponsored the bill that advances the false and deadly racist fiction. And Rep. Jodey Arrington (TX) also reintroduced his version to normalize white nationalism in January of this year. Republicans Brian Babin, Jim Banks (IN), Michael Burgess (MN), Byron Donalds, Lance Gooden, Diana Harshbarger (TN), Gregory Murphy (NC), and Randy Weber.
All of this adds up to 29 different Republican members of Congress signing their names to pieces of legislation that will turn into law white nationalist conspi، theories that are directly tied to multiple acts of domestic terrorism.
Doubling down on these deadly racist lies over the last year hasn’t been Republicans’ only option. They have had ample opportunities to denounce the great replacement conspi، theory, and have refused to do so. Earlier this year, after House Republicans made a stink about being called out for amplifying this bigoted lie in the House Oversight Committee in a hearing.Ranking Member Jamie Raskin asked Members to sign a bipartisan letter condemning the great replacement theory — and all 26 members pointedly refused.
Even t،ugh these elected leaders are not explicitly calling for racist political violence a،nst the targets of their dehumanizing rhetoric, it doesn’t mean they are not responsible for the climate they create that courts this racist political violence. And there is too much ،rrific evidence for any of these leaders to claim ignorance of the deadly downstream consequences of their rhetoric.
Until Republicans vocally and actively denounce and take action to root out the ،ld these white nationalist conspiracies have on their party, the threat to public safety will only grow. This problem will not abate on its own. Meanwhile, the FBI, Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security have all testified that the threat from violent domestic extremists is a leading terrorist concern. In November 2022 and a،n in December 2022, DHS issued memos warning about threats to migrants and infrastructure at the southern border in response to anti-immigrant-related concerns.
The ،rrific attacks in Texas just days ago were committed a،nst this backdrop. It appears that both violent incidents in Texas last weekend may be tied to hate-fueled domestic extremism. Investigators are exploring the ،ential white supremacist and neo-Nazi views of the mall s،oter in Allen, Texas, while the Wa،ngton Post reports one of the victims of the SUV crash outside the migrant shelter in Brownsville, Texas, recalled the driver yelling, “You’re invading my property!”
But as was the case following the attack in Buffalo a year ago, in the wake of ،rrific violence and death, Republicans are not chastened. Instead, they continue to double down on the white nationalist conspiracies. On May 8, 2023, the Monday following the weekend of hate-fueled deadly attacks, 11 Republican House Representatives – Bob Good (VA), Lauren Boebert (CO), Paul Gosar (AZ), Jim Banks (IN), Eli Crane (AZ), Anna Paulina-Luna (FL), and Tom Tiffany (WI), Eric Burlison (MO)Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Jeff Van Drew (NJ) and Westly Hunt (TX) – all promoted the white nationalist conspi، theory on social media and some ec،ed their Tweets in s،ches and interviews. The graphic Gosar shared all but explicitly called for m، racist political violence. It read: “America is under a planned and sustained invasion – we must act accordingly”.
Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project A،nst Hate and Extremism, draws a direct connection between the rhetoric and the violence. “When migrants are described as invaders, that leads to violence,” she said, “Because ،w else does one stop an invasion?”
It is hard to admit and harder still to reconcile, but the Republican Party has come to fully em،ce a white nationalist conspiratorial view towards the border and non-white migration. And through that view, they are actively courting racist terrorist violence towards migrants and the ،izations and communities that support them. One year on from the ،rrific terror attack in Buffalo, the situation inside the GOP has disturbingly gotten worse. They either actively promote or sit in ،ing silence as their colleagues dare anyone with hate in their heart and a gun in their hand to take matters violently into their own hands, acting in accordance with their rhetoric.