BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — All day at the White House, a national summit was held on addressing hate and violence in America. The national summit is in response to acts of violence across the country, including the racially-motivated Tops mass shooting.
Its now been four months since the Tops mass shooting and several of the families are still pushing for a federal ban on assault weapons and a federal law on black hate crimes. They’re also trying to address the root cause of crime based on hate.
“Gun violence is a big problem, the mental health piece is a big (problem) all of things are very pertinent but at the core of them is hate is racism is bigotry and this country was founded on that,” said former Buffalo Fire commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Whitfield, the son of Ruth Whitfield, who was killed in the mass shooting, won’t stop until racism is addressed in the United States and that systemic racism is defeated. The Whitfield’s met with Vice President Kamala Harris Wednesday at UB. They believe the Biden administration hears them.
“For the president to convene such a summit and talk about hate and racism and bigotry and those kinds of things in America that have caused our people throughout history to be challenged to be treated differently that’s the beginning of the healing process,” Whitfield said.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Harris, the vice president did not commit specifically to a Black hate crime bill.
“There is more work to be done and we’re going to continue to do that work,” she said. “We stand against hate targeted at any community.”
Thursday’s summit was attended by leaders from across the country from business, government and civil rights. Zeneta Everhart was also there. Her son, Zaire Goodman was shot several times at Tops and survived. She’s grabbing the ears of lawmakers in Washington, demanding change.
“These assault rifles, it’s out of control, an 18-year-old does not need an assault rifle no one needs an AR-15, no one needs that type of gun and our lawmakers can do something about that so I want to see them do it,” Everhart said. She wants to see a plan from the Biden Administration addressing domestic terrorism in the U.S.
While closing out the summit, Biden referenced the Tops mass shooting saying “evil will not win,” and that, “I am not going to stop until we ban assault weapons, we have to ban assault weapons, I mean it, we did it once before.”
Whitfield says he will return back to Washington D.C. in one week to march for the passage in the U.S. Senate for a ban on assault weapons. That bill has already passed the House, President Biden says he supports the bill, but that bill has not been approved in the Senate.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown also attended the summit. We spoke to him before he left the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.
“Lawmakers in Washington need to hear the voices of real people, I believe that will cause them to act and put an end to the kind of violence motivated by hate that we’re seeing,” Brown said.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.