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Design unveiled for memorial honoring victims of racist shooting in Buffalo

New York Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled plans for a memorial on Monday in memory of the 10 African-Americans killed in Buffalo on May 14, 2022, victims of a racist mass shooting.

The incident happened two years ago at the Tops supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood on Buffalo’s east side.

A man who identified himself as a white supremacist and “great replacement” conspiracy theorist used an illegally modified semi-automatic rifle to shoot and kill 10 black residents and injure three others while they were shopping in the Saturday afternoon.

Payton Gendron, who was 18 at the time of the massacre, pleaded guilty to murder, domestic terrorism and hate crimes. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The incident led to changes in gun laws in New York, including banning most sales of semi-automatic weapons to people under 21 and banning certain types of vests bulletproof.

New York also strengthened its whistleblower laws, which allow a judge to temporarily confiscate weapons from a person who may pose a danger to themselves or others.

But Monday’s event was about the victims. The memorial project consists of 10 interconnected pillars, each bearing the name of a person killed in the mass shooting.

Titled “Seeing Us,” it was designed by artists Jin Young Song and Douglass Alligood.

This rendering shows the design of a memorial to the victims of the May 14, 2022 racist mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo.  It was unveiled on Monday May 13, 2024.

This rendering shows the design of a memorial to the victims of the May 14, 2022 racist mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo. It was unveiled on Monday May 13, 2024.

Hochul, who was born and raised in Buffalo, said it’s a powerful statement that evokes strong emotions.

“But it hit me really hard again. It hit me hard,” Hochul said. “And I really want it to be a place where people will come.” This is their place, but others will learn of the terrorism that lurks among us. It was domestic terrorism, raw domestic terrorism.

Hochul said she is determined to continue the fight for racial justice and hopes the memorial can help achieve that.

Garnell Whitfield is a former Buffalo Fire Department commissioner whose mother, Ruth Whitfield, was the oldest victim in the shooting. She died at the age of 86.

“Let’s be very clear: This will not bring my mother back,” Whitfield said of the memorial. “It will not replace our loved ones. It will not repair all the damage done to our community over generations.

“But it represents hope for a better day,” he said. “This represents the planting of a seed within this community that will hopefully bear fruit so that future generations will not have to experience what we experienced, what our loved ones experienced.”

The memorial is expected to eventually include a new building for community events. New York State is contributing $5 million and the City of Buffalo is contributing $1 million.

But they said more money would be needed before the project could begin. A newly appointed commission will soon embark on a yearlong fundraising campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to begin work.