Thousands turn out to oppose racism, honor victims at New Zealand rallies

Thousands of people turned out across New Zealand on Sunday to mourn the victims of the mosque shootings that killed 50 earlier this month and protest racism, according to Reuters.

About 15,000 gathered in Christchurch, the news service noted, the city where the shootings took place.

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Numerous non-Islamic women reportedly wore headscarves in solidarity with the victims, after a series of photos was posted to social media last week with the #HeadScarfforHarmony hashtag. 

 

The vigil in Christchurch began with an Islamic prayer and included a reading of the names of the victims, most of them migrants or refugees, Reuters said.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can,” Okirano Tilaia, a student at nearby Cashmere High School, told the crowd, according to the news service. “Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can.” The victims included several of Tilaia’s classmates, according to the article.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also said a national remembrance service for the victims is scheduled for March 29.

“The service will be a chance to once again show that New Zealanders are compassionate, inclusive and diverse, and that we will protect those values,” Ardern said in a statement, according to Reuters. 

A petition to award Ardern the Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership following the attack had over 20,000 signatures as of this weekend.

Ardern announced a ban on all semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the shooting.