Dozens of elected officials, clergy members, residents from the Village of Hempstead and more came together on Wednesday to pray for the victims and those impacted by Saturday’s supermarket shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.
“I think about the young man who had the nerve to go ahead and actually have the time to make sure that he accomplished what he wanted to do,” said Dorothy Goosby, senior councilwoman of the Town of Hempstead, said of the accused gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, .
“It bothers me more because why are we still thinking that white people and black people are different? And why is a young man deciding he should go and kill black people?” she added.
On May 14, 10 people were killed and three others were injured during a shooting rampage at a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in East Buffalo. Eleven of the victims were black and authorities deemed the massacre to be racially motivated.
Police said Gendron drove 200 miles from upstate Conklin, N.Y., to carry out the attack in the predominantly black neighborhood. Gendron had visited the grocery store months before to perform a “reconnaissance-style trip,” where he surveyed the aisles and monitored security, police said.
Gendron, who livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera before surrendering to police outside the grocery store, was indicted for first-degree murder Thursday and appeared briefly in court.
Gendron reportedly published a 180-page document that included a series of white supremacist ideologies, including “the great replacement” conspiracy theory — a racist belief that claims the white population is being thinned out by non-white individuals. He used this theory to justify his plan to target and murder black people, authorities said.
State Sen. Kevin Thomas said conversations about gun legislation and the responsibility of social media companies have come up more frequently since the Buffalo incident.
“It’s speaking hate and there are algorithms that allow for this kind of hate to spread,” Thomas said. “This reminds me of what Martin Luther King said: ‘Laws don’t really change the hearts of man, but will change behavior…’ That’s what we are hoping to do.”
Hempstead Village Mayor Waylyn Hobbs, Jr. said with the uncertainty and problems the nation faces today, it is important for communities to unite in times of tragedy.
“We have to look at how it is so easy for people to have access to these automatic weapons,” Hobbs said. “Not only are we here for prayer (today), but we’re here to say it’s time for us to take action, for us to address the easy access to guns, address the mental health issue that plagues our country and fight against racism.”
Hobbs also touched on how the senseless killings in Buffalo affect communities beyond that city, including Hempstead.
Goosby said the division needs to come to an end.
“There are people here now that certainly feel that we are different,” she said. “We’ve worked hard all our lives, we came from slavery and we’re here now … I think it’s time that everybody realizes we are one — it bothers me highly that we are not remembering.”
With Associated Press reporting.
Featured image: New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas and Hempstead residents outside of Hempstead Village Hall. Photo courtesy of Thomas’s Facebook page.