AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A brutal massacre by a rightist shooter that left 50 dead and dozens injured at two mosques in the city of Christchurch March 15 has been seized on by ruling politicians to rally support behind their police and spy agencies under the banner of “national unity.”
At the same time, working people in their tens of thousands throughout the country have looked for and found ways to offer solidarity to Muslims and immigrants who were political targets of the attack.
“This affects all of us. It would be like someone coming into my marae [a center of Maori community life] and shooting,” Jorjah Mohi, a young Maori carpentry and construction student, told Militant worker correspondents Felicity Coggan and Annalucia Vermunt. They met while showing solidarity outside the police cordon around the Linwood Mosque March 17.
Coggan and Vermunt traveled to Christchurch to offer support on behalf of the Communist League and to join political discussions in the aftermath of the massacre.
Tens of thousands have attended vigils in cities and towns across the country to offer solidarity to those targeted. Thousands of high school students rallied in Christchurch March 18 to honor the dead. At least two of those killed attended high school. Millions of dollars have been donated online to assist the families of the victims and support their mosques.
Lone rightist shooter
Eyewitness accounts indicate that the same lone shooter was involved in the killings at both the Al Noor and Linwood mosques. On March 16 police charged 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, with murder.
Tarrant, a self-proclaimed “eco-fascist,” posted a 74-page anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim manifesto on the internet before the attack. He wrote that he wanted to “bring to attention the truth of the assault on our civilization, that no where in the world was safe, the invaders were in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world and that there was no where left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration.”
Like other advanced capitalist nations, New Zealand society — and the working class in particular — has been transformed over the past few decades by immigration. In the case of New Zealand, this involves working people mostly from the Pacific, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. According to government figures, around a quarter of the 4.7 million people in this country were born overseas.
The gunman first opened fire at the Al Noor Mosque during Friday afternoon worship. Naeem Rashid, originally from Pakistan, was one of the first killed when he tried to disarm Tarrant. Most of the hundreds present were trapped as the gunman blazed away, using several different weapons.
After killing 42 people at Al Noor, the shooter fired at other worshippers attempting to flee and then drove several miles to the Linwood Mosque, where he butchered seven more people. The slaughter ended when a would-be victim, Abdul Aziz from Afghanistan, coolly succeeded in diverting his fire and scared him off. Police rammed Tarrant’s car and arrested him. One other shooting victim died at a hospital.
Thousands of people turned out for a rally in central Auckland the next day. The speakers’ panel was weighted heavily toward capitalist politicians, especially representatives of the Labour Party, which leads the coalition government.
The rally program echoed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has repeatedly appealed for national unity and patriotism. She promotes the slogan “They are us,” and claims that New Zealand’s capitalist rule “represent[s] diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values.”
Ardern and other bourgeois politicians are pushing to respond to the slaughter by boosting New Zealand’s security and intelligence agencies to better spy and keep tabs on working people. She has said repeatedly the government will take steps to restrict access to gun ownership.
Communist League statement
Starting from a different class basis, the Communist League is widely distributing a statement condemning the rightist attack, explaining such assaults “are an outgrowth of the course of the capitalist rulers and their government.” (See above.)
The statement demanded, “No to attacks on Muslims and mosques! Oppose attacks on democratic and political rights! Withdraw all New Zealand armed forces from the Middle East and elsewhere overseas!”
Coggan and Vermunt discussed the statement the next day as they knocked on doors in Linwood and talked with workers and youth gathered in solidarity outside the Linwood Mosque.
Several mentioned discrimination faced by workers who are immigrants. “We’re all the same human beings under the skin,” a young construction worker told them when they knocked on his door. He explained how Filipino construction workers — who have played a key role in rebuilding parts of Christchurch after the devastating 2011 earthquake — face special exploitation by bosses.
The two Communist League members also visited the organizing center for gathering support for those affected by the massacres, set up at Hagley College, a community college in the city.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Coggan said. “Scores of volunteers, many but not entirely Muslim or immigrant, staffing different tables and stations offering all kinds of assistance — missing persons’ inquiries, food aid, other support services and organizing volunteers coming to help.”
A representative of the Muslim elders’ committee thanked the Communist League representatives for their solidarity and took their statement with cover letters to deliver to the two mosques.
Solidarity and aid is coming from all over the world. The congregation of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — where 11 Jewish worshippers were killed in an anti-Semitic assault last October — launched a drive to raise $100,000 for the two mosques in Christchurch.