In the aftermath of the May 14, 2022, mass shooting that left 10 people dead and three more injured in Buffalo, NY, the ADL Center on Extremism (COE) has reviewed images of what appear to be weapons, armor and other gear owned by the alleged shooter, Payton Gendron.
Gendron, who wore a sonnenrad, a symbol appropriated by the Nazi Party and widely used by modern white supremacists, mimicked a tactic used by white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, scrawling white supremacist symbols, messages and phrases on his weapons. Some of the messages written on the weapons were the same symbols and phrases used by Tarrant, who murdered 51 people in a March 2019 attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Among those symbols and phrases, COE found references to white supremacist killers, white supremacist names, phrases and memes, white supremacist symbols and incidents [victims] related to so-called “Black-on-White” crime.
The weapons Gendron allegedly carried include a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun and the assault rifle he is believed to have used during the shooting.
References to White Supremacist Killers
- The writing on the assault rifle includes the names of white supremacist killers such as “Jon [sic] Earnest” who in April 2019 opened fire on a Poway synagogue, “Anders Breivik” who murdered 77 people in Norway in July 2011, “Robert Bowers” who allegedly killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and “Dylann Roof” who composed a white supremacist manifesto before he killed 9 parishioners during an attach at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Also written on the assault rifle is the number “2083,” an apparent nod to the lengthy manifesto by Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in 2011. Titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, the screed champions Great Replacement conspiracies about the decline of Western Christian culture.
- The name “Ebba Aukerlund” is also written on Gendron’s assault rifle. Ebba was killed during a April 2017 Stockholm truck attack, in which an Uzbek asylum seeker ran his car into pedestrians on a busy street. Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto cites the death of Akerlund as one of his primary motivations for his Christchurch attack, and he too wrote her name on the weapon he used.
- The phrase “you wait for a signal, whilst your people wait for you” appears on the bolt-action rifle. This is the title to a section of Tarrant’s manifesto which serves as a call to action to defend the white race.
- Calligraphy on the shotgun includes the names “Travis McMichael” and “Gregory McMichael,” the convicted murders of Ahmaud Arbery in a 2020 hate crime.
White Supremacist Names, Phrases and Memes
The writings on the weapons include references to white supremacists, white supremacist phrases and memes.
- On the assault rifle, Gendron wrote “buck status: broken.” This is likely referring to “buck breaking,” the use of brutal sexual violence by slave owners as punishment against enslaved Black men. He also wrote “#BLM mogged.” Mogged is internet slang term meaning to assert dominance. Writing above the trigger of the AR-15 stock reads “James Watson,” the name of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who was stripped of his honorary titles in 2019 for linking race and IQ.
- Writing on the stock of the assault rifle includes the phrase “here’s your reparations!” This refers to the call for reparations for descendants of slaves in America and sometimes People of Color in general. These calls were re-energized by the 2014 Ta-Nehisi Coates article, “The Case for Reparations.”
- Also written on the assault rifle is the phrase “black bros… I don’t feel so good,” likely a common internet slang phrase used on image and message boards to degradingly refer to Black people.
- The bolt-action rifle includes similar references such as “stand up and be counted,” “white lives matter—give them hell” and “we waz kangs n shiet.” Although a common phrase used to reference showing where one’s political sympathies lie, “Stand up and be counted” may be a reference to a Johnny Rebel song titled “Birth of a Nation.” In the song, Johnny Rebel sings, “stand up and be counted and join the Ku Klux Klan! We are a sacred brotherhood, who loves our country too.” The song has been referenced by a variety of white supremacists.
- “White Lives Matter” (written on the bolt-action rifle) is a white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015. It became popular in white supremacist spaces as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement and advocates for raising “white racial consciousness.”
- “We wuz kangz” is a common slogan used on 4chan’s /pol/ “politically incorrect” board to mock and denigrate of those who theorize that Ancient Egypt was a Black civilization. The phrase has also been adopted by a variety of white supremacists as a racist catchphrase directed at African Americans and other people of sub-Saharan African descent.
White Supremacist Symbols
Gendron’s weapons also showcased several symbols associated with the white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements.
- The number “14” was visible on the barrel of the assault rifle used during his alleged attack on the Buffalo supermarket, likely a reference to the “14 words,” a popular white supremacist slogan.
- The numbers “13/52” are written on the shotgun. Here, the number 13, used in conjunction with the number 52, is a shorthand reference to racist propaganda claims by white supremacists against Black people to depict them as criminal in nature. The 13 refers to the purported percentage of the U.S. Population that is Black and 52 refers to the alleged percentage of all U.S. murders that are committed by Black people.
- The illustrations on the shotgun also include a round Celtic Cross symbol, one of the most important and commonly used white supremacist symbols. The Celtic Cross is used by neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and virtually every other type of white supremacist. It has also achieved notoriety as part of the logo of Stormfront, the oldest and largest white supremacist website in the world.
- Both the assault rifle and shotgun display the Othala Rune and St. Michael’s Cross. Originally part of the runic alphabet system, the othala rune was adopted by Nazis in the 20th century to reconstruct a mythic “Aryan” past. Following the Third Reich’s cooptation in World War II, white supremacists in Europe, North America and elsewhere began using the rune. A fascist symbol created in the early 20th century, St. Michael’s Cross originally represented the Iron Guard, a group which combined fascism, nationalism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and anti-Semitism. Contemporary right-wing extremists have coopted the cross, especially after neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach re-established its relevancy in 2010, and in 2019 when Brenton Tarrant also featured the symbol on his armaments.
“Black-on-White” Crime References
Gendron references victims of “Black-on-White” crimes in the messages scrawled on his three weapons, capturing a favorite white supremacist talking point.
- Gendron’s assault rifle lists the names of several victims of the 2021 Waukesha Christmas parade attack, including Virginia Sorenson, Leanna Owens, Tamara Durana, Wilhelm Hospel and possibly Jane Kulich—the last name is not as legible as the others. In the wake of the deadly SUV attack, many white supremacists used perpetrator Barrell E. Brooks Jr’s identity as a Black man to sow racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories and to claim it was a “Black-on-White" terrorist attack.
- On the barrel of his assault rifle, Gendron acknowledged “Jason Rivera,” a New York City police officer who was shot when responding to a domestic call at a Harlem apartment earlier this year.
- The writing on the shotgun features the names of several other alleged victims of “Black-on-White” crimes who are championed by white supremacists, including Nicole duFresne, Gary and Helen Wells, Emily Elizabeth Haddock, Bryor Gibbens, and Michael Verkerke.