Community Support Following “One Of New Zealand’s Darkest Days”

On Friday 15th March at 1.40pm, Brenton Tarrant entered Al Noor Mosque armed with a semi-automatic weapon and opened fire on the people inside the place of worship. He then proceeded to drive to another mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where he conducted his second targeted attack. As of Sunday 17th March, 50 people have been announced dead and 36 remain in Christchurch Hospital as a result of the violence.

The attack was livestreamed by Brenton Tarrant on Facebook. He had also used Facebook to release his 74-page manifesto titled “The Great Replacement,” a phrase which is symbolic for European anti-immigration extremists. A terrorist attack of this nature is unprecedented in New Zealand and the collective response of the nation has been one of both shock and horror. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said that she was “shocked beyond words,” and that she would “never have expected anything like this to happen in Christchurch”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden described Friday as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” and delivered a bold statement stating that the victims in the mosques were likely to be migrants, but that “they are us” and the shooter was not. The New Zealand community has rallied beyond this sentiment, with images and messages flooding social media outlets.

The wall bordering the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, as well as other spaces close to the mosques, have been filled with hundreds of bouquets of flowers for the victims, their families and the Muslim community as a whole. Messages left at these places include words such as “this is your home”, “we love you” and ”you should have been safe here.” As of Sunday 17th March, the official Victim Support Give A Little page has raised $4.3 million for the victims of the shootings.

A barbershop located in Riccarton has become a central hub for donations of water, disposable items and food for the victims’ families. Barbershop owner Matt Brown commented that “obviously a lot of people have lost their families – such a tragic loss, but we’re just trying to be supportive and do what we can in loving and giving.” Many other businesses have operated as centres for community support and many have also offered free goods and services to those in need. The University of Canterbury, alongside its Students’ Association and many student-led clubs, has set up several initiatives to offer assistance to the Muslim community including counselling services, transport options, food donations and messages of support.

Further immense support and gratitude has been shown to the first responders and the authorities who have worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. Brenton Tarrant was apprehended 36 minutes after the police were first called, a response for which they are highly commended for. Kindness has also been extended through flowers, cards and donations of food towards paramedics, teachers and staff at Christchurch Hospital, as well as volunteers.

It appears as though the tragic events of Friday 17 March have taken away the innocence of Christchurch to some degree, but this is not to outweigh the significant flood of support from the global, national and local community that has ensued following the terrorist attack. As Prime Minister Arden summarised, “New Zealand is united in grief”.

Laura O'Dwyer