CLEVELAND — In the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, those who are committed to fighting hate are sharing their reactions after ten people were killed at a grocery store on Saturday.
“This was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said. “It was [a] straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community, outside of the City of Good Neighbors, as the mayor said, coming into our community and trying to inflict that evil upon us.”
In total, 13 people were shot, 11 of whom were Black. 10 people died. Officials said that the 18-year-old white suspected shooter traveled to the community specifically because of its Black population.
"This was, no other way to describe it, white supremacy terrorism,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul. “It's racism, it's hatred, and it stops right here in Buffalo. This is the last stop you're going to have because we're coming after you."
James Pasch, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said there has been an increase in hate crimes across the country and in Ohio.
“Make no mistake that the hateful, racist, and anti-Semitic bile that is traveling across this country has inspired the shooters from Pittsburgh to Poway to the Walmart in El Paso, and now to the grocery store in Buffalo,” Pasch said, referencing other mass shooting events. “It’s an unmistakable trend and there is this through line of hate and racism and anti-Semitism that connects all of those events.”
Officials are looking into an alleged manifesto supposedly written by the suspected shooter. Pasch said it references an ideology called the “Great Replacement Theory.”
“This is indicative of a heavily influenced white supremacist ideology that is virulently racist and anti-Semitic,” he said.
Pasch said this idea has been referenced in other mass shootings, as well. He said the theory essentially “argues that Jews are responsible for non-white immigration in the United States, and that non-white immigrants will eventually ‘replace’ the white race.”
“More must be done now to push back against the racist and anti-Semitic violence that is being perpetrated,” he said.
Danielle Sydnor, president of the Cleveland branch of the NAACP, also urged an end to the violence and extremism.
“The young man that perpetrated these devastating and horrific acts specifically was doing it based on the fact that he could go into a Black community and cause harm, it was motivated by the race of the victim and not just some arbitrary act where he happened to show up in a neighborhood,” Sydnor said. “It was very intentional why he chose the location that he did.”
Sydnor said that as long as evil is allowed to continue to spread, no communities will feel safe.
“We fail to recognize that Black people are dealing with domestic terrorism every single day in this country,” Sydnor said. “We have to fear the normal places that many people go and don’t have to worry about because someone could be purely motivated by hate and want to cause harm to us.”
According to the latest data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ohio reported 357 incidents that were classified as hate crimes. In 2020, that figure jumped to 538.
Both Sydnor and Pasch also urged politicians and leaders to take action to fight back against extremism and hate.
“I just believe that we’re in a moment right now where we have to stop sitting on the sidelines, we have to stop waiting for somebody else to come in and save the day and fix these things. We must band together as Black people and allies and white folks across the country.”
Meanwhile in Cleveland's Asian American and Pacific Islander community, people are preparing for the annual Cleveland Asian Festival in Asiatown on May 21-22. Volunteer Siu Yan Scott believes events like this can go a long way toward fighting hate crime through the sharing of cultures which can bring a better understanding of others.
"It helps people to get to know each other on a human level," said Scott. "It breaks down the barrier of, 'I don't know who you are.'"
Scott also teaches a local situational awareness workshop, as part of the OCA Advocates Greater Cleveland Chapter. The monthly workshops train people on how to be confident and effective bystanders against racism and discrimination, should they witness a hate crime.
"To help find your voice," Scott said, describing the course. "To help those around you, whether it's pulling up your phone and recording something, or finding your power to speak up about something," she said.
You can find more information on the OCA Situational Awareness Workshop, which welcomes people of all races and ethnicities, here.