06.07.22

Statement On Domestic Terrorism Threat After Buffalo Attack

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate you holding this hearing.  But I find it difficult to comprehend that we are still in this position, having the same conversation about domestic terrorism and the racist ideologies motivating violence that are spreading across this country with little to no check against them.  Instead, each day and each week seems to bring new tragic incidents, with an increasing number committed by individuals who hold white supremacist ideologies.  No one should be afraid of being murdered when they visit their local grocery store or when they attend their place of worship—or even when they come to work in our very own United States Capitol.  And yet that is the reality facing millions of Americans, every single day. The heinous mass shooting in Buffalo last month is a painful reminder that domestic terrorism, motivated by white supremacists, is still very much present and spreading in the United States.

This is not hyperbole.  This is fact.  Look to the FBI, which reported that the number of hate crimes in 2020 was the highest recorded in two decades.  Nearly half of the domestic terrorism investigations that year involved racially motivated violent extremists—87 percent of the subjects of those investigations were white supremacists.

And now, we have yet another unspeakable tragedy.  Ten individuals were killed in Buffalo—while shopping at their local grocery store—at the hands of an individual who had been motivated by a racist conspiracy theory.  There must be accountability for these crimes.  But, we must also act against the root causes of this growing hate. And we need not look further than certain political leaders and media pundits who fan the flames of these ideologies and conspiracies—and who give them the sheen of legitimacy.

We certainly cannot stand by as they are given mainstream validation. We are heartbroken—but we must also be resolute, because lives depend on our ability to extinguish the flames of hatred and violence permeating our country.  We must stand up to misinformation, which has proven to be an existential threat to our great democracy.  We must act together and we must do it swiftly—this is not about politics, it is about saving lives and protecting the world’s last best hope for a peaceful, thriving democracy. 

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Here is a VIDEO of Senator Leahy’s Statement.

Here is a VIDEO of Senator Leahy’s Question.