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Black leaders want stronger hate crime law in Arkansas after Buffalo shooting

Some leaders in Arkansas want a stronger hate crime law in the state following the Buffalo mass shooting, which targeted a majority Black community.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — This weekend's mass shooting in Buffalo has Black community leaders and activists in Arkansas reacting to the racist motive behind the shooting.

Officials named 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron as the accused shooter, who also left behind a white supremacist manifesto. Out of 13 people shot, 11 people were Black. 

"Here we go again. Unarmed Black people getting murdered because of white supremacists," said Barry Jefferson, Jacksonville's NAACP president. "Then, I think about here in the state of Arkansas where we don't have a hate crime law. A real hate crime law that we deal with on a regular basis all the time."

 RELATED: Buffalo shooter targeted Black neighborhood, officials say

Lawmakers passed a "class protection" bill in April 2021, which requires a criminal convicted of a hate crime to serve 80% of their sentence before parole eligibility. 

Critics like Jefferson have called it a "watered-down" version of a hate crime la. 

"It doesn't focus on specific groups. They want to just put everything in the same category, because they feel that hate is hate. Hate is not hate. People are killing people because they are Black. So, we want a real hate crime bill here in Arkansas," said Jefferson.

He used February's bomb threats of Historically Black College and Universities as an example of current white supremacy manifesting in the state. 

RELATED: Police receive 911 call from 'neo nazi' claiming responsibility for HBCU bomb threats in Arkansas

Little Rock activist and organizer, Osyrus Bolly said just because the massacre happened in Buffalo doesn't mean it doesn't affect Arkansans. 

Bolly pointed out the accused shooter's age when addressing anti-racist education being essential now more than ever. It's time to re-evaluate what is taught in the public school system.

"Especially with all the recent attacks on how Black history is taught. The bans on books, the bans on the civil rights movement, and the fact that this 18-year-old man was actually learning things about Nazi, eugenics theories," said Bolly.

The Buffalo shooter's manifesto talked about the "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory.

UA Little Rock history professor, Dr. Brian Mitchell explained that the theory is a fear of the white majority becoming the minority over time. The conspiracy theory also claims that non-white people are being brought into the country to "replace" white voters "to achieve a political agenda," according to a report by NPR.

"There's a lot of fear in certain communities when that majority is no longer there, that there'll be some dramatic change, some shifts in the way we think," said Dr. Mitchell.

He added that he doesn't think Arkansas in particular would have to worry about rhetoric like this causing incidents like the shooting. 

For leaders like Jefferson, he said at the current time he's worried about racism killing more Black people. 

He plans on addressing state capitol leaders at the next session.

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