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Watkins-Hayes and Ali comment on racial and domestic terrorism aspects of the Buffalo shooting

May 20, 2022

In the aftermath of the racially-motivated shooting spree in Buffalo that left 10 people dead, Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Ford School associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Center for Racial Justice, and professor of practice Javed Ali, were sought-after by the media to try to make sense of the tragedy.

Ali told Fox 2 Detroit that the massacre in Buffalo is a product of a fifth wave of far-right extremism. "Unfortunately, the Buffalo attack is yet another reminder of this threat of far-right terrorism inside the United States," he said. "But this wave of far-right terrorism, which has had lots of attacks within it, didn’t start with Donald Trump. It actually started in the late 2000s with the election of President Obama."

The clearly racist intent of the alleged shooter can be traced to “replacement theory” currently circulating in right-wing media. 

The internet is where people exchange these ideas and theories, and their plans, quite openly, and there needs to be greater enforcement by internet companies or the government, he told BBC News.  

Watkins-Hayes told ABC Australia that President Biden's reaction to the shooting was significant. "What happened in Buffalo is an unspeakable devastating albeit not surprising tragedy, fueled by racism and white supremacy ideologies. The fact that the President used terminology to call it out, to talk about the ways it has been commodified and mass distributed, and to link that to what we saw happen in Buffalo is quite significant to hear from an American President.”

Ali also spoke with CNN about the difficulty of securing “soft targets” around the country, where mass killings have been taking place. "From what we know about mass shooters, they tend to pick targets that allow them the best chance of success. The combination of target vulnerability plus attack capability plus perceived impact usually drives how these events unfold, although there is no clean scientific or mathematical algorithm that can precisely determine when and how attacks happen," he said. 

As well, he said preventing those types of attacks by identifying potential mass shooters is difficult. “The horrific attack in Buffalo underscores the challenges for law enforcement in identifying and preventing mass-casualty lone wolf terrorist attacks, with this being the latest in a string of similar ones committed by other white supremacists in the United States,” he told ABC News.

Mass shooters are increasingly attacking 'soft targets' such as supermarkets. Experts say securing them will be difficult, CNN, May 20,2022

Missed signals in 4 mass shootings: What went wrong?, ABC News, May 20, 2022

Buffalo shooting highlights rise of hate crimes in US, ABC Australia, May 18, 2022 

Buffalo mass shooting a product of 'fifth wave of far-right extremism' expert says, Fox 2 Detroit, May 17, 2022