Survivors of the white supremacist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and family members of the victims who didn’t survive announced Wednesday that they filed two lawsuits against YouTube, Reddit, Alphabet Inc., Google and three gun-related companies, which they have accused of empowering and enabling racist shooter Payton Gendron to murder 10 Black people for no other reason than the fact that they existed.
We previously reported that Gendron authored a manifesto that revealed he’s a believer in “White Replacement Theory,” a pro-white nationalism concept studies show about 70% of the GOP also adhere to. We also reported that Gendron met with and exchanged ideas with fellow racist white radicals in online chatrooms, which could easily lead one to believe he was radicalized online, or at least heavily influenced into acting on his existing racism and violent ways.
In fact, according to Axios, the lawsuits brought on by Everytown Law and civil rights attorneys from the firms Bonner & Bonner and Ryder Law, which are representing the family members and 17 survivors of the shooting, cited a state report that the shooting was racially motivated and that Gendron’s online activity helped turn him into the anti-Black killer that he is.
But the internet platforms aren’t the only ones to blame, according to the suits. According to Fortune, body armor manufacturer RMA Armament, large-capacity magazine producer Mean LLC and New York’s Vintage Firearms of Endicott are also named as defendants, as are Gendron’s parents, who plaintiffs say are guilty of ignoring all the red flags that pointed toward their son being a murderous white supremacist and a domestic terror attack waiting to happen. (This is a good time to remind people that members of Gendron’s family and friends of the family erroneously tried to blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the shooting and expressed sympathy for his parents, who they implied simply missed the warning signs.)
“We aim to change the corporate and individual calculus so that every company and every parent recognizes they have a role to play in preventing future gun violence,” Everytown Law’s executive director Eric Tirschwell said in a statement, Fortune reported.
It’s unclear what specific damages the pair of lawsuits, which were filed in the State Supreme Court in Buffalo, are seeking, but what is clear is the lasting and inescapable trauma the victims are experiencing.
“I still live with those images every day. It’s a part of my life. For the rest of my life, I will have it in my mind,” said Fragrance Harris Stanfield, one of the Tops Supermarket employees who were working during the shooting.
“The violent actions of a white supremacist who targeted my community ripped my mother away from me, and her nine grandchildren,” said Wayne Jones, son of 65-year-old Celestine Chaney, who was killed in the shooting. “This racist attack could have been prevented; numerous companies and individuals had the power to stop it from happening. My only hope is that this lawsuit can raise awareness and hold them accountable so that another gunman can’t inflict the same kind of terror and incalculable damage.”
“No one wants to go through these types of things, but the lawsuit is to prevent the next family from feeling like we’re feeling,” Jones said, according to the Buffalo News. “I have to deal with this every day. My family has to deal with this every day.”
For what it’s worth, which is absolutely nothing, a spokesperson for YouTube expressed its “deepest sympathies” for the victims while appearing to deny that it bears any responsibility for Gendron’s actions.
“Through the years, YouTube has invested in technology, teams, and policies to identify and remove extremist content,” the spokesperson said. “We regularly work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices.”
And yet here we are.
Hopefully, Gendron’s victims receive all of the justice they’re seeking.
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