WASHINGTON D.C. — Garnell Whitfield Jr. described his mother Ruth Whitfield as the heartbeat of his family.
“What I loved most about her was the way she loved her family unconditionally, sacrificing everything for us,” said Whitfield.
His mother was shot and killed in last month’s mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.
Ruth Whitfield was 86.
“We’re more than hurt,” said Whitfield about his mother. “We’re angry. We’re mad as hell because this should have never happened.”
Police say the shooting was racially motivated.
The alleged gunman was an 18-year-old white man who targeted a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
“He was radicalized by white supremacists and his anger and hatred were metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones in high places screaming that Black people were going to take away the jobs and opportunities,” said Whitfield.
Democrats on the committee pointed to FBI warnings about the growing threat of violent domestic extremism and played a video showing the chants of white supremacists.
“White supremacist violence has swept across America,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Republicans on the committee argued that domestic terrorism has led to violence from both left- and right-wing extremists and pointed to anti-police rhetoric and attacks as well.
“One constant of domestic terrorism is that the threat is always shifting, and violence comes from all sides of the political spectrum,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Whitfield urged Congress to act now and to honor his mother and all of the other victims killed by racially motivated attacks.
“My mother’s life mattered and your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you,” said Whitfield.
Democrats in the Senate recently introduced a bill that would have ramped up how the FBI tracks and analyzes domestic terrorism threats.
Republicans blocked that bill because they argued that it was partisan and unnecessary because laws covering politically motivated violence already exist.
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