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Thursday, January 26, 2023

DHS Secretary Mayorkas Promises ‘Every Available Resource’ After Buffalo Attack to ‘Combat Violent Extremism as One’

Violent extremism, including racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, "continues to pose one of the most significant terrorism-related threats to the homeland."

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement reacting to the Buffalo mass shooting late Sunday that the Department of Homeland Security is “devoting every available resource to combat all forms of terrorism and targeted violence to keep our communities safe and secure.”

Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, N.Y., allegedly drove about 200 miles to a Tops grocery store in Buffalo and initially opened fire on people in the parking lot Saturday before entering the store and continuing to shoot. Ten people were killed and three were wounded. The shooting was livestreamed via a helmet camera on Twitch, which promptly removed the video.

In a 180-page manifesto posted online in conjunction with the attack, the author identifies himself as Gendron and calls himself a populist, fascist, white supremacist, antisemite, and racist while detailing his belief in the “white genocide” anti-immigrant conspiracy theory. The writer credited Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant with having the greatest influence on his radicalization, and said he subsequently “found other fighters, like Patrick Crucius, Anders Breivek, Dylann Roof, and John Earnest” and took inspiration from them as well.

“The evidence that we have uncovered so far, make no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said at a Sunday press conference. “It will be prosecuted as a hate crime. This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind.”

Mayorkas, who has previously highlighted domestic violent extremism as “the most significant terrorism-related threat that we face in our homeland,” said Sunday that the nation “mourns the loss of life caused by the horrific shooting in Buffalo” and “our hearts break for the families and friends of the victims, and we stand with them and the entire Black community that was targeted by this hateful act of violence.”

“The Department of Homeland Security continues to work closely with our partners across the country to combat violent extremism, including racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, which continues to pose one of the most significant terrorism-related threats to the homeland,” Mayorkas said.“Make no mistake: when one community is targeted, we are all targeted,” he added. “This country stands as one, and we will combat violent extremism as one.”

The White House announced that President Biden plans to travel to Buffalo on Tuesday “to grieve with the community that lost ten lives in a senseless and horrific mass shooting.”

“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” Biden said in a Saturday statement. “Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Saturday that the Justice Department “is investigating this matter as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.”

“The Justice Department is committed to conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims,” he added.

The FBI is asking for the public to submit images or information pertaining to the attack.

In February, the latest National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin assessed that the  converging factors of disinformation, persistent calls for violence against critical and often-soft targets, and recent calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States have “increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity” of the threat landscape.

The bulletin reiterated assessments previously and frequently expressed by federal law enforcement and homeland security officials that the “primary terrorism-related threat to the United States continues to stem from lone offenders or small cells of individuals who are motivated by a range of foreign and/or domestic grievances often cultivated through the consumption of certain online content,” and stresses that “the convergence of violent extremist ideologies, false or misleading narratives, and conspiracy theories have and will continue to contribute to a heightened threat of violence in the United States.”

The bulletin said that calls for violence have been notably targeting “U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents.” Violence against these locations or groups could stem from anti-government extremism, racially or religiously motivated extremism, and/or disinformation or conspiracy theories; for example, “COVID-19 mitigation measures—particularly COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates—have been used by domestic violent extremists to justify violence since 2020 and could continue to inspire these extremists to target government, healthcare, and academic institutions that they associate with those measures.”

10 Killed in Buffalo Supermarket Attack Allegedly Inspired by Christchurch Terrorist

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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