By SUSAN HAIGH
Saturday’s funeral for 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, the oldest and last of the victims of a gunman’s racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket to be laid to rest, became a call for action and an emotional plea to end the hate and violence that has wracked the nation.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who addressed the mourners at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Buffalo at the insistence of Rev. Al Sharpton, said this is a moment in time for “all good people” to stand up to the injustice that happened at the Tops Friendly Market on May 14, as well as the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and other mass shootings.
“We will not allow small people to create fear in our community,” she said. “We will not be afraid to stand up for what’s right, to speak truth even when it may be difficult to hear and speak.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who delivered a fiery tribute to Whitfield at the beginning of the funeral service, called for all “accomplices” who aided and abetted “this monster” who opened fire in the supermarket to be held accountable, from the gun manufacturers and distributors to the parents of the suspect.
Crump said those those who “instructed and radicalized this young, insecure individual” should also be held to account for taking Whitfield from her family, the Buffalo community and the planet. He called her “one of the most angelic figures that we have ever known.”
“It is a sin that this young depraved man, not a boy, went and killed Ruth Whitfield and the ‘Buffalo 10,’” Crump said, referring to the victims.
Whitfield was inside the Tops Friendly Market after visiting her husband of 68 years in a nursing home when a gunman identified by police as 18-year-old Payton Gendron began the deadly onslaught.
Authorities said Gendron, who is white, targeted the store three hours from his home in Conklin because it is in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
In all, 13 people were shot in the attack which federal authorities are investigating as a hate crime. Three people survived.
Whitfield was the mother of former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.
Gendron is charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail. His attorney has entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
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