PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Local leaders, nonviolence advocates and community groups gathered Monday to pay tribute to the victims of a deadly mass shooting in Buffalo and condemn the racial motivations believed to be behind the attack.
The event began with a prayer and a moment of silence for the 10 people killed and three people wounded in Saturday’s shooting, along with the victims of violence everywhere.
Police say an 18-year-old white man wearing body armor and armed with a rifle opened fire at a supermarket in a primarily Black neighborhood. Eleven of the shooting victims were Black.
The FBI said it’s investigating the attack as a hate crime and an act of racially charged violent extremism.
“We had 10 people lose their lives. They were targeted because they were Black. This harkens and brings our minds to a very dark place in our country’s history … but this is broader than that,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said outside the city’s Nonviolence Institute.
Elorza urged people not to get desensitized to these types of incidents, saying whenever there’s a victim of violence, we all suffer. He also called for stronger gun control and better mental health treatment.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” the mayor said. “There’s no reason why people should have such ready access to these kinds of guns, guns that are designed solely to kill so many people at one time.”
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Jim Vincent, president of NAACP Providence, called the shooting “a stain on the country’s history” and “a stain on all of us.” He said accountability is needed when it comes to addressing white supremacist ideologies, which he believes is the biggest domestic threat in America.
“Anybody that has anything to do with inflaming people that support white supremacy needs to be called out, and called out hard and often,” Vincent said. “The time of being silent is over. If you’re not calling it out, then you’re part of the problem. Period.”
“We have to end this whole thing about white supremacy and scapegoating Black people. That’s all,” he added.
Cedric Huntley, the Nonviolence Institute’s executive director, said it’s up to everyone in the community.
“We have to pay attention,” Huntley said. “We can prevent things, incidents like this from happening if we pay attention and follow up.”
Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said he met with law enforcement leaders following the shooting in Buffalo. He assured they’re doing everything in their power to prevent an attack like that from happening.
State Rep. Karen Alzate, chair of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus, released a statement earlier on Monday denouncing the mass shooting.
“The Rhode Island Black and Latino Caucus extends our deepest sympathies to the victims of, and those affected by, this vile display of hatred, bigotry and evil,” Alzate wrote. “As we learn more about this horrendous attack, it is apparent that we still have much more work to do on preventative mental health treatment and common sense gun laws to ensure these heinous attacks no longer continue in our society. Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones and we emphatically condemn the unspeakable and racist evil that was sadly witnessed in Buffalo.”