Senate hearing examines growing domestic terrorism threat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Less than a month ago, ten people in a Buffalo grocery store were shot and killed in a racist attack. The alleged shooter has pleaded not guilty on domestic terrorism and hate crime charges, but congress is looking at this incident and examining the growing threat of domestic terrorism. In a Senate Judiciary hearing, we heard some powerful and emotional testimony from a family member of one of the Buffalo victims. Families of the Buffalo shooting are urging Congress to do something on this growing issue.  

“My mother’s life mattered, my mother’s life mattered,” said Garnell Whitfield, Jr. He is the son of Ruth Whitfield, who was one of the ten victims of the tops grocery store mass shooting in Buffalo, New York last month. Whitfield told senators their family has endured so much pain after losing their mother. 

“For her to be murdered, for her to be taken away from someone so full of hate is impossible to understand and even harder to live with,” said Whitfield.  

Authorities said evidence shows the alleged shooter, an 18-year-old White man was motivated by race and targeted the supermarket in a predominately Black community. Before the shooting, a 180-page document allegedly written by the suspect was posted online, writes that white Americans are being “replaced” by people of other races. Recently DHS warned of a heightened threat environment for domestic violent extremists. 

“All violence will never be tolerated,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R- IA).  

“We cannot deny that hate has a big platform,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D- Il).  

In this hearing, senators examine why domestic terrorism is growing. Looking at the Buffalo shooting and the January 6th Capitol attack, a political science professor from the University of Chicago, Robert Pape, PhD., explains violent populism is rising in the U.S. due to extremist ideas getting circulated.  

“A key extremist idea is the ‘great replacement,’” said Pape. “At bottom, the fear is that minorities will have more rights than Whites. As these ideas are becoming more extreme, domestic terrorism is evolving in dangerous ways.”  

Pape adds that we can combat this growing issue.  

“Ultimately the solutions to violent populism are the pillars that have guided our great American democracy: dialogue and listening to each other,” said Pape.  

Political analysts said our country needs annual reports assessing incidents of people across the political spectrum, from Neo-Nazis to Antifa, turn to violence so we can better understand the extent and source of the greatest threats. They add there should be a national conversation outlining the facts of violent ideas moving into the mainstream. Following the Buffalo shooting, the House passed legislation which would strengthen domestic terrorism investigations, reporting and monitoring but that legislation failed in the Senate.