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Racist theory of Buffalo shooter has Charlottesville root

Charlottesville residents took to the streets Monday night to express solidarity with victims and the city schools offered advice to employees and students in the wake of a racism-motivated mass shooting in a New York grocery store.

A 180-page screed, allegedly penned by the man charged with murder and hate crimes in the shooting that killed 10 and wounded three in Buffalo, espouses a white supremacist theory echoed in shouts heard on Charlottesville streets in August 2017.

The violence, purposefully perpetrated in a Black neighborhood by someone who did not live there, has local residents concerned about their safety and the safety of minorities in general. On Monday, local residents took to Market Street Park for rally on behalf of the victims.

“On Saturday, 10 people lost their lives and three people were injured because a white supremacist shooter targeted a supermarket in a predominately Black community,” members of Charlottesville’s Black Youth Action Committee, which organized the rally, said in a statement. “Black lives are being threatened. We have to continue to show up and demand justice. We deserve life. We deserve to live! Black communities are being targeted!”

Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Royal A. Gurley and School Board Chair Lisa Larson-Torres on Sunday offered up sympathy to the victims and condemnation for the act in a letter to school families and employees.

“We are writing to condemn the racist violence in Buffalo and extend sympathy to all who were directly impacted by the shootings. However, the sad reality is that all of us are impacted, especially our Black students, staff, and families,” they wrote.

“Our nation has seen too much gun violence and too many manifestations of white supremacy. These tragedies have targeted not only Black people, but Asians, Jews, and many others,” they wrote. “As we approach the five-year mark of the neo-Nazi rallies in our own community, we are all too aware of the lasting impact of hate and violence.”

The letter listed numerous resources of which community members could take advantage.

“Our experiences have also taught us about the power of resistance, resilience, and community,” they wrote. “Let us redouble these efforts toward hope for the sake of our children.”

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said the Buffalo shooting and the rally in Charlottesville are connected by a supremacist conspiracy theory.

During their torchlight night march through the UVa Grounds on Aug. 11 and the violent and deadly Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, neo-Nazis and white supremacists chanted, shouted and screamed among other slogans of racist rhetoric that “Jews will not replace us.”

The phrase refers to a white supremacist conspiracy called replacement theory. The conspiracy is usually blamed on Jews and involves somehow using immigration, integration, abortion and a variety of other methods to take power away from white people.

“I still have ‘Jews will not replace us!’ ringing in my ears,” Sabato said. “Sometimes Blacks and immigrants are substituted for Jews, of course. The idea is to instill paranoia in whites that they are about to be replaced by ‘others,’ that it is an intentional plan of liberals, or Democrats, or George Soros or whomever, and they need to fight to maintain their control. It is, of course, sick and corrosive. As we now know well, this thinking leads to violence and murder.”

Sabato said the Buffalo shooting, and similar events that preceded it, show that what happened in Charlottesville was not a random gathering of radicals.

“What I remember is how many people contacted me from across the country and beyond after August 2017 to say, ‘you’re making too much of Charlottesville. It was just a handful of crazies and means nothing.’ Sadly, that’s been disproven,” he said. “And it wasn’t just a handful back then, either. There were hundreds of sick racists and anti-Semites, most of them young, all of them spewing deep-seated hatreds.”

Amy Spitalnick, of Integrity First For America, concurs with Sabato. The organization sued several organizers of the Unite the Right rally in the federal lawsuit Sines v. Kessler claiming civil conspiracy and race-based harassment or violence.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs more than $25 million in damages, although the defendants have filed to have the damages reduced.

“Many Americans were baffled by the chant,” she said of ‘Jews will not replace us.’ “They didn’t understand why or the conspiracy theory.”

Spitalnick said that imagery is being used in less obvious ways.

“What’s dangerous is the more insidious and subtle ways the imagery is being used. It can show up in comments about immigration being made to change or politics or ‘globalist cabals.’ We’re hearing it more often in rhetoric from mainstream [Republican Party] officials,” she said.

“It was fringe five years ago and now it’s become front and center in our politics,” she said. “There are strings that go through the Unite the Right rally and directly attach to [hate-related shootings] in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo and even the rhetoric of the January 6 [2021] Capitol invasion.”

Sabato said he expects the political use of the racist theory will continue for some time.

“Their twisted beliefs have been mainstreamed by the Trump GOP, media personalities such as Tucker Carlson, and the dark recesses of social media and the internet,” he said. “Expect to hear echoes of this dangerous nonsense for a long time to come.”


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