The Audacity of Payton Gendron's Not-Guilty Plea in the Wake of Ending 10 Black Lives
The 18-year-old white supremacist was recently indicted on terrorism and hate crime charges for killing Black shoppers in Buffalo last month — he has chosen a not-guilty plea.
On Wednesday, June 1, Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old white supremacist responsible for taking the lives of 10 Black shoppers in Buffalo and critically injuring three others, was formally indicted on a state domestic terrorism and hate crime charge that comes with a life sentence.
And in a disgustingly audacious move, Gendron pled not guilty to the crimes he is being accused of.
From a legal perspective, I understand why anyone representing him would encourage that plea. Maybe they will try to exploit some loophole dealing with mental illness. Maybe they believe that he’s young and white and male enough to evade sentencing. Whatever the reason for the plea, it is disgusting and audacious because Gendron left a trail of evidence pointing to his motives.
We learned early on that Gendron had scoped out the Topps market for months and knew that it was a grocery store primarily patronized by Black residents of East Buffalo. We learned that Gendron had an assault rifle with the word ‘nigger’ scrawled on it. We learned that Gendron had written a manifesto and had been radicalized online, sharing messages of intent to cause harm to Black people.
None of this is information that was unveiled through the course of a criminal trial. A trial has not even been set and we knew all of these things, yet Gendron and his attorney(s) would like the public to believe that despite all of the tangible proof he left behind he should be exonerated for this crime.
The state of New York enacted the “Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act” after an attack at a rabbi’s home in Munsey, New York. That law was signed by former New York governor, Andrew Cuomo on April 3, 2020, and went into effect on November 1, 2020. So it’s not as if New York doesn’t have a clear legal precedent of what constitutes as a hate crime, and again, by all accounts what Gendron did was a pre-meditated act fueled by racial hatred.
Or in the words of John Elmore, a lawyer representing the families of victims Katherine “Kat” Massey and Andre Mackniel, “This man was motivated by hate against people he never met for no reason other than the color of their skin.”
Gendron was given a 25-count indictment, an increase from what he was initially charged with hours after he slaughtered those innocent souls on May 14. He live-streamed the execution using a helmet-mounted camera. He traveled over 200 miles to commit the crime and had staked out the building a day prior.
Legalities notwithstanding, the only thing that makes someone plead not guilty to a crime of this magnitude is believing that the people you victimized were not humans, and therefore not worthy of being considered murder victims. Again, his attitude and ideology around Black Americans and his belief in the racist propaganda of the replacement theory directly point to his culpability.
He pled not guilty because he believes in whiteness as a righteous cause worthy of protecting at all costs and it deems it unfathomable that a jury can see the devastation he caused and dare to convict him. And that level of audacity was not just something he developed during his 18 years of living, that audacity is indicative of a culture he was born into that told him that Black lives were disposable and needed to be wiped off the planet.
It’s the same hate-fueled brazenness that has emboldened white killers to hunt, maim and execute Black folks for generations and not see anything barbaric about their actions. And for Gendron to admit guilt is for him to have lost a tussle with his conscious about something he knew was wrong.
White supremacy survives off the audacity of white supremacists that always consider violence against people of color as a divine act. This is why it’s up to the legal system to do its job in cases like this. Because the supremacist will never find the harm in doing what they convinced themselves they were called to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donney Rose is a Writer, Editor, Organizer and Chief Content Editor at The North Star