BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Day three of the ‘Pursuit of tRuth’ conference at Buffalo State wrapped up Saturday. The speaker series was organized by the family of Ruth Whitfield, who was killed in the shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue.

Saturday’s event was a town hall debate focusing on freedom of speech and hate.

The town hall featured civil rights attorney Ben Crump, Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union and others.

“When we think about how to resolve the question of the tension between free speech and racist violence we have to think long and hard,” said Lieberman. “And every solution that we propose we have to test it, we have to test it against what’s it gonna mean for us. what’s it gonna mean for the good guys?”

Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould with the Faith in Action National Network said families need to start having uncomfortable conversations about race and hate early.

“You’re having Thanksgiving dinner with some of those people who are at risk of being radicalized,” added Rev. Dr. Gould. “Yes, we have to get to our children. But, we also have to deal with the pervasive perpetual inequities of education that allow Black and brown children to be educated one way and white children to be educated in a different kind of way.”

Attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family of Ruth Whitfield, said if we want change, lawmakers need to put politics aside.

It seems like there are too many people in America today for political expediency that want to divide us, and it is heartbreaking, because of those cowards, that we will continue to see human carnage, because of gun violence,” said Crump. “Because of this combination of racism and gun violence in America. It is a deadly combination.”

Saturday’s speakers also discussed the radicalization of people through social media platforms.

One speaker called for more transparency into the algorithms that hook people on dangerous and hateful rhetoric.

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.