The Buffalo community honors victims of the Tops shooting and calls for big change

The community in Buffalo, N.Y., continues to grieve and heal after Saturday’s mass shooting by coming together.

On Tuesday, in an empty lot just across the street from the Jefferson Avenue Tops supermarket — the site of the mass shooting — crowds of people came together to honor the 10 deceased victims.

Three other people were injured in the racist attack. The shooter, inspired by a racist conspiracy theory, targeted the grocery store because it’s in a majority-Black neighborhood. His deceased victims were all Black.

That piece of the tragedy adds another layer of fear and grief to the community, according to Kelly Diane Galloway.

“So imagine the incredible fear that Black people have to constantly live in knowing that we could be killed at any moment — while shopping, while laying in our beds, while sitting in a car with your family — because you’re Black,” she said.

A lifelong Buffalo resident, she runs Mona’s House, the first restoration home in western New York for women who have been rescued from human trafficking.

As a member of the community, Galloway wanted to create a safe space for people to come together and heal.

“I’m looking to see not just the Black community heal, but I would like everybody to heal because I think that white supremacy and racism is a sickness,” she said. “And people need to be healed from that.”

She and Jamil Crews organized Tuesday evening’s vigil, which honored the shooting victims while combining stirring gospel music and calls to action. Speakers included local activists, religious leaders and business owners.

Many people were still feeling raw just days after the attack. As names of the victims were read aloud, many people in the crowd held each other and cried.

Many who spoke said they want to see meaningful change from Saturday’s attack. Much of the message from speakers was clear: Politicians must address white supremacy through purposeful policy change.

Shaun King, a prominent civil rights activist, spoke at length about the need to see concrete action from lawmakers — instead of just thoughts and prayers.

“It’s not enough to say that you are disturbed and you hear the pain and feel the pain of this city,” he said. “There is deep change that actually has to happen here.”

He added, “Here’s what we need to see from the city of Buffalo, from the state of New York and from our federal government: Show us the budget that you have to confront white supremacy.”

The vigil came the same day President Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited a memorial site in front of the Tops supermarket and met with victims’ families and local politicians.

In his remarks, Biden suggested legislative action to combat internet radicalization and gun violence.

Tiara and Ciara Collins, who live on the East Side of Buffalo, attended the vigil out of a desire to show support. They hope meaningful change comes soon.

But the fact that Saturday’s tragedy occurred still feels unreal, they said.

“People shouldn’t be gunned down just by doing the simple things that we do in our daily life,” Tiara Collins said. “They shouldn’t be gunned down period.”

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