Payton Gendron: Family members of Buffalo Massacre victims: ‘Facebook and Twitch are also responsible for our pain’ | UNITED STATES

Wayne Jones learned his mother, Celestine Chaney, was one of 10 people killed in a racist massacre in Buffalo last Saturday when he received an emailed photo of her lying on the ground with a gun assault aimed at his head. The killer, Payton Gendron, live-streamed his supermarket shooting on Twitch, and someone had taken a screenshot and sent it to Jones.

Jones always went with his mother to Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue, he tearfully recalled in an interview with EL PAÍS in Buffalo on Tuesday. On the day of the massacre, a leg injury prevented him from accompanying him. Her Aunt Dee also wept as she recalled how she learned of her sister-in-law’s death. “I received 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 told Wayne Jones Jr. , Celestine’s grandson, went further: “Seventy-two hours have passed and the video is still circulating, it’s appalling. It appears here and there, on someone [Facebook] wall, or in a random message. This is how the hatred behind my grandmother’s murder spreads. If we weren’t black, this wouldn’t happen.

Signs, balloons and police tape are wrapped around a street pole opposite Tops Friendly Market where 10 black people were killed in a racist massacre.Joshua Bessex (AP)

According to a spokesperson for Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, it took the company just two minutes to remove Gendron’s video from the platform on Saturday. But by the time the video was removed from Twitch, it was already being shared on other networks, such as Reddit and Facebook.

On Wednesday, authorities revealed that the shooter, indoctrinated into white supremacy ideology by those same social networks, had invited a group of users of the Discord messaging system to discuss his macabre plans just half an hour before shooting. get into the car that would take him away. on the more than three-hour drive from his hometown of Conklin in upstate New York to Buffalo. No one in that chat group called the police. The New York Attorney General’s Office said on Wednesday it had launched an investigation into these platforms in connection with the mass shooting in Buffalo. “That an individual could publish detailed plans to commit such an inconsequential act of hate and then broadcast it for the world to see is chilling and unfathomable,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. a statement.

Those close to Chaney weren’t the only ones hurt by the horrific footage of the shooting. Other family members of the victims expressed similar grief at an event on Tuesday to remember those killed. The memorial, which took place at a civic center near the grocery store, was attended by US President Joe Biden, who paid special tribute to each of the 10 victims.

Biden defined Chaney as “a brain cancer survivor, practitioner, and bingo lover.” Geraldine Talley, 62, “was a friend to everyone, a devoted mother and grandmother”. Pearl Young, 77, “loved singing, dancing and her family”. Ruth Whitfield, 88, was a “beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother who sang in the church choir”. While Margus Ardie, a 52-year-old school bus assistant, was killed while “going to buy snacks for a weekly movie night with the family”.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown later spoke to reporters in the still cordoned off area around the supermarket, which four days later is still closed. Brown paid tribute to Aaron Salter, a 55-year-old retired police officer who worked as a guard at the grocery store. He lost his life trying to arrest Gendron, who was outfitted in professional military gear, including a bulletproof vest, and was detained by police before he could go ahead with his plan to kill in d other parts of the neighborhood.

Those close to André Mackniel, 53, are reassured that at least the tragic events have shone the spotlight on their community. Priest Tim Newkirk, who accompanied Mackniel’s brother and niece, hoped “the neighborhood will pull through.” “We will not allow hatred, racism or terrorism to win,” he said. Taniqua Simmons, an anti-racism protester at the security perimeter of Wednesday’s event, was not so optimistic: “Many will think this neighborhood is a dangerous place, and it could become so, but I had never felt fear in my life so far. To overcome this sadness and anxiety, we will need tools that we unfortunately do not have.

A man kisses a woman near the scene of the shooting at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York.
A man kisses a woman near the scene of the shooting at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York.BRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)

Buffalo is a tale of two cities, and that story is best seen from Main Street, which divides the city down the middle: to the east, the population is poor and predominantly black, and to the west, it is wealthier. and white. It is a fracture that is felt on the scale of the city, which imposed itself at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the steel industry, and was hard hit by the deindustrialization of the 1980s.

The victims of Saturday’s racist massacre are the descendants of those who came to seek their fortunes and settled in the east of the city. The killer chose Tops Friendly Market precisely because it served the area with the highest concentration of black people in New York State. According to local press, Gendron also considered other locations, such as a Walmart in Rochester and a mall in Syracuse.

“We all know each other here,” says Brenda McDuffie, who was director of the Buffalo Urban League, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the city’s black community. “This supermarket is where we saw each other. It’s part of our lives, and it was taken away from us by an individual who didn’t act alone, he had the support of others,” she adds, referring to those who, like the shooter, support the so-called “great replacement” conspiracy theory – a group that includes members of the Republican Party and popular radio and television hosts. This white supremacist theory asserts wrongly that whites are being replaced by non-white immigrants and minority groups as part of a master plan concocted by left-wing elites.

McDuffie says one of his greatest accomplishments during his 20 years as head of the Buffalo Urban League was persuading Tops, a supermarket company that operates in the northeast, that Jefferson Avenue was a safe place to do business. After Saturday’s massacre, no one is convinced.

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