BY EVAN DENNY
Connecticut residents and lawmakers gathered in mourning at the Islamic Community Center in Bridgeport on March 15, following the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. In attendance were U.S. Sen. Michael Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.
The terrorist attack was carried out by a 28-year-old Australia man who appears to be a white nationalist. He killed 50 people in the city of Christchurch and live-streamed his rampage on Facebook.
“Thank you to the Islamic Center for opening your doors and your hearts to us to give us this opportunity, very simply, to say we are with you,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Blumenthal. “We stand with you. We are in solidarity with you. Our hearts break with you.”
In his first court appearance, the suspect flashed a white power sign. Before the shooting, he wrote a manifesto and later posted it on social media. The document adopts far-right, white nationalist views, specifically emphasizing a disdain for immigration and Muslims.
“When there was the attack in Pittsburgh last fall where a synagogue was attacked and Jews were killed, as one of the leaders of the Jewish community, it was very, very meaningful to me and to all of us to see people from different faiths and different walks of life showing up and saying ‘we got your back,’” said Steve Ginsburg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Rep. Jim Himes from Connecticut’s fourth district took the stage following Blumenthal.
“We have to be absolutely opposed to the notion that there should ever be a competition of who’s more a victim of bigotry,” said Himes. “Is it anti-Semitism? Is it anti-Muslim? Is it homophobia? None of it is okay.”
The killer’s manifesto praised Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. New Zealanders are debating the limits of free speech after their chief censor banned the 74-page manifesto on Saturday, March 23.
New Zealand will hold a top-level inquiry into the massacre that will examine what roles guns, social media, and spy agencies played preceding the attacks.
“In short, the inquiry will look at what could have or should have been done to prevent the attack,” Ardern said. “It will inquire into the individual and his activities before the terrorist attack, including, of course, a look at agencies.”
Jeremy Stein is the executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence. The organization’s mission is to reduce gun violence in the state of Connecticut.
“We are seeing a rise of this kind of hate crime in the United States and now we’re seeing it in the rest of the world. This has no place in society. We have to put a stop to this kind of violence against people that may act, look, or practice their religion differently than others,” said Stein.
Stein wants Connecticut to pass “common sense” gun laws. They held a public hearing on March 11 regarding four gun laws, two of which are designed for safe storage.
“What should be the sanctity of homes and houses of worship, whether they’re mosques or synagogues or churches, are the last place something like this should happen,” said Mayor Joe Ganim. “Let’s keep the fight going from the perspective to continue to look, not only to work together to make our city and our state and our country safer but at the same time to get the message out against hate.”
The killer has been charged with murder in the attacks and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on April 5.
“This kind of repeated violence, particularly in a place of worship, is so absolutely stomach-turning,” said Blumenthal. “We will not talk about invading immigrants posing a threat. We will not talk about closing our borders with walls; we ought to be building bridges.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.