Leaders gather to support Muslims in wake of mass shooting in New Zealand

Community members gathered at the Long Beach Islamic Center Friday afternoon to show solidarity with the local Muslim community in the wake of a shooting in New Zealand that left 49 people dead.

Mayor Robert Garcia, Signal Hill Mayor Tina Hansen and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn were among the roughly 50 people in attendance at the mosque, which is located in Signal Hill.

“On behalf of Long Beach we stand with our Muslim community and neighbors and send out love to you not just here at home, but across the world as well,” Garcia said.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, was charged in the New Zealand killings on Friday. Authorities said he is a white nationalist extremist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the attacks on Facebook.

Three other suspects were also detained in connection with the shooting in Christchurch, a major city on New Zealand’s South Island, according to news accounts.

Several police agencies across Southern California stepped up patrols at mosques on Friday, and the chiefs of police in Long Beach and Signal Hill attended Friday’s event to assure the public there was no threat.

The presence of the Long Beach police department and support from the community helped alleviate tensions as members of the mosque gathered for their usual Friday prayer—but those in attendance at the event in Signal Hill still felt some unease.

“Some guys who were next to me, whenever they heard a noise they would get distracted, so no matter what you do you have that fear,” said Mahmoud Albewaneh, a member of the mosque.

Hansen said there are always places one one should feel safe: in your home, at your school, and at your place of worship.

“And when a place like that is violated, anywhere in the world, it is important to come together like we are here and speak out against hatred and violence,” she said.

Fatime Ahmed, a member of the Islamic Center in Long Beach, watches as local officials and leaders of the faith community speak in support of the local Muslim community in Long Beach Friday March 15, 2019. Photo by Cheantay Jensen.

Members of the Islamic Center in Long Beach pray at the end their weekly service in Long Beach, Friday March 15, 2019 Photo by Cheantay Jensen.

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Cheantay Jensen is an editorial intern who covers art and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post.