Christchurch terrorist attacks
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The Christchurch terrorist attacks were two white nationalist terrorist attacks perpetrated at two mosques, the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019. The attacks killed 51 people and seriously injured over 50 others. The suspected perpetrator, self described "Ethno-nationalist, Eco-fascist" and "Kebab removalist" Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian from Grafton, New South Wales, has been charged with one count of murder, according to a charging sheet from Christchurch District Court.
A 17-minute video was live streamed on Facebook showing the Al Noor Mosque attack. Just before the attack, an account believed to belong to Tarrant posted a link to an 87-page white nationalist manifesto on Twitter and 8chan as well as the aforementioned Facebook.
- 1 The Manifesto
- 2 Scale and legal implications of the shooting
- 3 Aftermath
- 4 Conspiracy theories
- 5 See also
- 6 External link(s)
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Like fellow self-absorbed extremists Ted Kaczynski, Anders Behring Breivik, and Dylann Roof, Brenton Harrison Tarrant tried his hand at a grandiose "manifesto" in which he championed the white genocide conspiracy theory and its French/European equivalent The Great Replacement. The shooter cited the death of 11-year old Ebba Akerlund by a truck attack in Sweden and the 2017 presidential elections in France as well as visit to the country as motivations for committing violence. Amid 87 pages of sarcastic shitposting filled with memes, ironic posturing, and numerous self-contradicting positions aimed at trolling the ignorant and amusing his 8chan hate-monger buddies, Tarrant proclaimed that he moved to New Zealand in order to carry out the attack, identified himself as a racist, fawned over his various white nationalist and fascist heroes including but not limited to Oswald Mosley of the pro-Nazi British Union of Fascists (who is quoted once in the manifesto and whom the shooter viewed as the person closest to his own beliefs), the aformentioned Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik (which he viewed as his biggest inspiration and claims to have contacted him and his organization Knights Templar) and American Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, Italian neo-Nazi Luca Traini (who shot and injured 6 African migrants), Swedish migrant high school student killer Anton Lundin Pettersson and British Finsbury Park mosque attacker Darren Osbourne. He even went as far as to state that he read Dylann Roof's manifesto The Last Rhodesian and the writings of others. The shooter also expressed a desire to kill CEOs, drug dealers, various Antifa/Marxists/Communists, NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) and politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Mayor Sadiq Khan of London, England whom he deemed to be "anti-white". The shooter wished to start a Second American Civil War in order to balkanize the United States along political, cultural and racial lines because he wished to stop any future US/NATO intervention like that in Kosovo during the Yugoslav Wars and to supposedly would ensure the existence of the white race in North America. He said he supported Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" but not as a policy maker or leader. There are also references to prominent black conservative [Charlie Kirk#Turning Point USA|Turning Point USA]] member Candace Owens, the video games Fortnite and Spyro the Dragon and the Navy SEAL Copypasta but as largely trolling and urged the creation of memes around him. Despite however the shooter's denial of being a Nazi or Neo-Nazi (instead referring to himself as "an Ethno-nationalist, Eco-fascist") he uses the Black Sun (aka the Sonnenrad or Schwarze Sonne) very prominently on the manifesto's front and back covers and it is a symbol originating in Nazi Germany by Heinrich Himmler of the SS during World War II engraved on Castle Wewelsburg. The Fourteen Words a prominent neo-Nazi slogan by terrorist David Lane of The Order/Bruder Schweigen is also quoted multiple times with "secure" replaced by "ensure" every time the shooter said it (it also appears on his guns as "14" or "14 Words"). The violent white nationalism and fascism of Brenton Harrison Tarrant expressed in the manifesto deviates in two major ways: Jews and LGBT the former is viewed by him as not the enemy particularly those living in Israel so long as they weren't out to harm his people (Whites/"Europeans") and the latter he said he didn't care as long as they stayed loyal to their country in stark contrast to most white nationalists who view both groups as inherently dangerous aside from a couple of exceptions.
Tarrant also said he considered the People's Republic of China to be the nation closest to his political and social views (in spite of being Communist), which as been accused of trying to assimilate ethnic minorities. Indeed, one of the key objectives of President Xi Jinping is the “Sinocization” of religion. China is home to some 56 ethnic groups, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Mongols, Koreans, Manchus, and Hui (Chinese Muslims), with the Han Chinese making up 91% of the population. The Uyghur Muslim minority in particular has been persecuted by the Chinese government for their culture and identity but it is not clear whether Tarrant knew this.
Scale and legal implications of the shooting
Prior to the attacks, New Zealand had experienced only one comparable incident in 1990, when 13 people were killed in the small town of Aromoana before the terrorist was shot and killed by police. For perspective, New Zealand had 35 murders reported throughout the entire year of 2017. The country's murder rate was stated to be at an all-time low, making the mosque attacks singular in New Zealand's history of crime. This presented a literally unprecedented legal challenge for New Zealand law, as there is no predecessor against which to compare Tarrant's case. Additionally, the New Zealand justice system establishes convictions of multiple crimes concurrently (rather than consecutively, as is done in the United States); theoretically, it is legally possible for Tarrant to serve a single life sentence for all 50 murders. Although New Zealand does have anti-terrorist laws, such as the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, they were never tested in New Zealand courts until very recently on May 21, 2019 when Brenton Harrison Tarrant was charged with terrorism under this law. On March 18, Tarrant fired his court-appointed lawyer, Richard Peters, and planned to represent himself in court. On June 13, 2019, Brenton Harrison Tarrant pleaded not guilty to the 51 murder charges and 40 attempted murder charges with his new lawyer Shane Tait and the next trial is set for May 4, 2020.
To date, the Christchurch mosque attacks at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre are one of the deadliest incidences of far-right terrorism and the first major mass shooting of 2019 in terms of press coverage/media attention and casualty rate. The attacks are also the most fatal mass shooting against Muslims in the West, as well as the most severe white nationalist-supremacist/neo-Nazi/racist attack on a non-white/non-Christian place of worship in a Western country (surpassing the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Charleston church shooting, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at the Tree of Life - Or L'Simcha Congregation in the United States, and the Quebec City mosque shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City in Quebec, Canada).
The shooting brought much attention to 8chan's /pol/ board, where Tarrant initially posted his manifesto and informed users of his impending video stream of the Al Noor Mosque attack (before going on to shoot up Linwood Islamic Centre), as well as the "ironic" aspect of meme culture and shitposting fascism and neo-Nazism popularized by alt-right websites such as The Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff, the /pol/ boards of both 4chan and 8chan, and other white-supremacist websites visited by Tarrant. The Christchurch terrorist attacks brought new attention to online radicalization by the far-right on a variety social media platforms ranging from the mainstream (Twitter and Facebook) to the more obscure (8chan and Gab). Following the attacks, a YouTube channel operated by a user called "Third Positionist," in reference to the supremacist-blending Third Position socioeconomic ideology, was terminated by YouTube following reports from staff members of The Huffington Post and ProPublica. The account termination highlights a rise in white nationalist and supremacist media, utilizing YouTube as an avenue of radicalization.
Facebook would ban white nationalism entirely from its platform one week after the Christchurch mosque attacks. On the other side of things at Gab, the rather violent anti-Semitic alt-right racist and Charlottesville riots/Unite the Right attendee Christopher Cantwell would end up getting banned from the service after he made a post suggesting it was more useful to kill 50 left-wingers in the United States than Muslims.
There were also a number of related arrests such as an Oldham, Manchester, United Kingdom man expressing support for the shooter, a New Zealand employee of a UAE company sharing similar sentiments and the owner of a neo-Nazi company including 6 employees arrested for sharing footage of the Christchurch mosque attacks. One notable example was two white nationalists from Greece, New York, United States named Thomas Alonzo Bolin ("Ragnar Odinson") and Austin Witlowski ("Peter Vincent") arrested for attempting to carry out a copycat attack and for lying to the FBI of not owning a gun which he would admit later.
The Christchurch mosque attacks also led to 17 countries (New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the European Commission/European Union, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Spain, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan and Senegal) and United States-based tech companies Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Qwant and Dailymotion signing a protocol/compact titled "The Christchurch Call to Action" which establishes new rules to regulate violent extremist content and Facebook now banning them from using their Live feature to broadcast any future shootings/terrorist attacks. The United States though has declined to join "The Christchurch Call to Action" citing free speech concerns although they are generally supportive of this protocol.
The Christchurch mosque attacks also have led to a movie in the works title Hello, Brother (named after a quote said by Haji-Daoud Nabi who was killed) by Egyptian filmmaker Moez Masoud and a novel by Tom O'Connor titled The Ides of March (a reference to the date Julius Caesar was assassinated and the shootings).
In the wake of the attacks, Western leaders expressed their sorrow and offered their condolences to the people of New Zealand. Meanwhile, various Muslim majority countries, such as Turkey and Pakistan, blamed Islamophobia for the attacks and accused politicians and the media for stoking hatred against Muslims.
Facebook said it removed some one and a half million videos of the Christchurch massacres on its platform within twenty four hours of the attacks.
“”What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.
|—NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern|
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged to tighten gun laws, in reference to the methods Tarrant used to obtain and modify his weapons. In particular, the sales of "military-style" semi-automatic rifles and accessories that could make a gun semi-automatic, such as "bump stocks," would be banned, as would their possession. Those who currently own such weapons can hand them over during a grace period while officials develop a formal buyback plan which could cost up to NZ$200 million (US$140 million). Currently, there are approximately one and a half million guns in New Zealand, a country of about five million people. Only six percent of weapons are registered. A semi-automatic firearm is one that is able to reload itself after firing. Under New Zealand's law, a military-style semi-automatic weapon has a magazine of seven rounds, or with pistol grips, folding or telescopic butts, bayonet attachments or flash suppressors at the end of the barrel. Police officers, military service members, and professional pest controllers would be exempt. Such a ban is widely supported in New Zealand, where firearm ownership is a privilege rather than a right, as is the case in the United States.[note 1]
Prime Minister Ardern also vowed to never mention the shooter by name and believes it is unacceptable that the shooter was able to live-stream his act of terrorism via Facebook. She said she wanted assurance from social media companies that something similar would never happen again. She announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry, New Zealand's highest form of investigation, reserved for matters of utmost public importance, into what could and should have been done to prevent the Christchurch shootings. Domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, the police, and customs and immigration will be looked at.
Chief New Zealand Censor David Shanks has classified the full 17-minute video of the shootings as objectionable, which means that it is illegal for anyone in New Zealand to view, possess or distribute the video in any form, including via social media platforms. The attacker manifesto has been made illegal in New Zealand too, specifically anyone found to possess the manifesto could face up to 10 years in prison, and those caught distributing it could face up to 14 years in prison. Prior to the banning, Shanks and his staff considered the possibility of raising interest in the Manifesto, but concluded it was justified because the Manifesto encourages acts of cruelty and terrorism. Shanks said journalists and researchers could apply for exemptions from both bans. A number of free-speech advocates, such as Stephen Franks, a constitutional lawyer and spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, do not object censoring the video, but they do not support restricting access to the Manifesto, arguing that it could spark conspiracy theories and that people should be able allowed to form their own conclusions and "see evil or madness for what it is." At present, New Zealanders are still free to read Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.[note 2] An eighteen-year-old New Zealander has been arrested for sharing the live-stream and faces a heavy jail sentence if convicted.
The New Zealand Herald released a list commemorating the 50 victims, with remembrances from friends and surviving family members accompanying photos of the deceased.
The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison issued a statement in which he expressed sympathy, saying "we are family" with New Zealand and "condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist that has taken the lives, stolen the lives, in a vicious, murderous attack, that has claimed so many New Zealanders", of course given that the perpetrator Brenton Harrison Tarrant came from Australia it heavily effected the citizens of the country to see one of their own commit violent terrorist attacks. A written statement from Australian far-right, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim Queensland Senator Fraser Anning of Pauline Hanson's One Nation caused intense backlash from social media and politicians, after Anning implied the Muslim victims of the shooting shared some responsibility for the violence due to immigrating to New Zealand.  A day later, during a meeting of the newly formed Conservative National Party in Melbourne, Victoria, Senator Anning was attacked from behind by a young man while responding to questions from journalists and was struck on the head with a raw egg. Anning immediately turned and struck the teenager twice, after which the teen was tackled to the ground by Anning's goons.
Later it would be revealed that Brenton Harrison Tarrant interacted with the far-right United Patriots Front (UPF) led by Blair Cottrell and True Blue Crew (TBC) led by Kane Miller on their now defunct Facebook pages where he praised the former affectionately calling him "Emperor Blair Cottrell" as well as donating to the UPF and threatening a Melbourne man over criticism of the organization, he was also offered to join the also Blair Cottrell-led Lads Society (a whites-only "fight club") but declined. Cottrell immediately distanced himself from Tarrant for his violent terrorist actions.
Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz called for a "ruthless" investigation after it became known that Identitare Bewegung Osterreichs (IBO), the Austrian branch of the Identitarian movement/Generation Identity in Europe, had received a donation from Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the Christchurch shooter. Moreover, this donation was higher than what the movement normally receives. Martin Sellner, leader of the Austrian Identitarians, had his apartment in Graz, Austria, searched by police and had his electronic devices seized. He would later go on record to condemn the attacks and stating the group had nothing to do with him. Although it initially reported that there was no ties between Tarrant and Austrian Identitarians. However, it was later revealed by various Austrian and German media outlets such as ORF (Osterreichscher Rundfunk) that Sellner exchanged emails with Tarrant like one asking if they could meet for coffee or beer in Vienna and another which the former sent a link to his YouTube channel to the latter something confirmed by him.
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau condemned the attack in an official statement, recalling the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting by Alexander Bissonnette as an example in which Muslim community members suffered "unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest," and pledged to work with New Zealand on taking action against violent extremism. Alexandre Bissonnette was also one of the numerous figures (historical or far-right) etched onto one of the guns used by Brenton Harrison Tarrant to carry out the massacre/terrorist attacks at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. In response to the attacks, police increased security at mosques in Montreal, Gatineau, Ottawa, Edmonton, Toronto, Saskatoon and Quebec City, though Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale stated that Canada's national threat level would remain unchanged at "medium." A vigil was held in Halifax for victims of the attacks, while more than 500 people came together in solidarity at Celebration Square in Mississauga, and an estimated several hundred people mourned the victims at a vigil in Toronto's Nathan Philips Square.
“”Immigrants, especially Muslims, cannot integrate into Western society.
|—The Global Times|
Chinese President Xi Jinping officially denounced the attacks and offered his condolences.
China (which was mentioned by name in the manifesto) had mixed reactions. While the state censorship apparatus is extremely effective at removing online materials deemed undesirable by the Communist Party, it was surprisingly slow in eliminating videos of the Christchurch shootings from Chinese social media networks, such as Baidu Tieba, one of the largest of them all, and other websites. Chinese internet users were still posting and watching the videos almost 48 hours after the shootings took place; some even compared it to a violent video game. Although these were later censored, they were removed later than in Western countries.
State-controlled media exaggerated the severity of the terrorist attacks and seized this opportunity to point to flaws in how Western liberal democracies manage their societies. (See quote above.) In an editorial, state-owned tabloid the Global Times argued that white supremacy is part of "Western values."
Some observers pointed out that the Chinese government has a habit of not wanting to "wash their dirty linen in public." In other words, they tend to avoid discussing China's national problems, yet they often focus on negative developments abroad in order to encourage appreciation for how the Communist Party is running the country, offering peace and prosperity instead of violence and chaos. Furthermore, China, as experts warned, used the Christchurch mosque shootings to justify its policies towards Muslims in the Xinjiang region in northwest China, namely, sending ethnic minorities to detention camps, conducting mass surveillance, and razing ethnic neighborhoods. China also stressed the economic development of this region and accused critics of "slanderous fabrication."
France, the country home to Renaud Camus' The Great Replacement conspiracy theory that the shooter visited, also saw him donate to Generation Identitaire, the French branch of the larger Identitarian movement/Generation Identity (GI) in Europe, along with its Austrian counterpart Identitare Bewegung Osterreichs (IBO). Shortly afterwards, Camus had condemned the attack.
On March 18, 2019, after nearly six months of silence, the spokesman of ISIS Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, emerged to call for retaliation over the mosque attacks in New Zealand: "The scenes of the massacres in the two mosques should wake up those who were fooled, and should incite the supporters of the caliphate to avenge their religion." New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a tweet saying "Revenge is coming" and showing a picture of rifle with white Arabic text and an ISIS flag.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom expressed their condolences for the Christchurch community, while Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attacks and stated the UK "stood shoulder to shoulder" with New Zealand.
“”I informed the Prime Minister that we stand in solidarity with New Zealand – and that any assistance the USA. can give, we stand by ready to help. We love you New Zealand!
|—U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet|
President Donald Trump of the United States said he spoke with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the telephone about the "horrific" massacre and offered assistance should New Zealand needs any.
In a rare move, Trump tweeted and later deleted a post in which he linked to the Breibart homepage, which at the time was featuring an interview in which he urged his supporters to play tough and talked about his executive order on free speech on college campuses. Trump only deletes his tweets in cases of spelling or grammatical errors. This interview was conducted before the Christchurch shootings. Breibart, formerly run by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, is known for being anti-Muslim and for providing a platform for white nationalism.
Conspiracy theories emerged since the day of the attacks.
An armed guy stopped the shooter?
Some wingnuts claimed that the attack was a false flag in order to attack right-wing activists. Quite ironically, the shooter himself denied that it was a false flag all the while promoting "false flag" conspiracy theories about any future shooting.
I really want to say one thing today. Do you think this guy was alone... I want to ask you - where did he get the funding from? I stand here and I say I have a very very strong suspicion that there is some group behind him [Tarrant] and I am not afraid to say I feel Mossad is behind this.
- White genocide, a conspiracy theory the perpetrator subscribes to
- White nationalism
- 8chan, the website where the shooting was announced
- Kiwi Farms, the website that has the shooter's manifesto and livestream of the shooting
- The Poway synagogue shooting, an incident in Poway, California at a Jewish synagogue called the Chabad of Poway killing 1 woman and injuring 3 others. The shooter John T. Earnest was inspired by the Christchurch terrorist attacks.
- The Great Replacement - Towards A New Society, Brenton Tarrant's manifesto. (Banned in New Zealand.)
- Even so, according to AP-NORC polls conducted before and after these shootings, about two-thirds of Americans support stricter gun laws. The shootings had no significant impact on American public opinion regarding gun laws.
- And the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
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- [https://www.sbs.com.au/news/world-leaders-and-tech-giants-sign-ardern-s-christchurch-call-to-curb-online-extremism "World leaders and tech giants sign Ardern's 'Christchurch Call' to curb online extremism"]. SBS News. May 16, 2019. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/world-leaders-and-tech-giants-sign-ardern-s-christchurch-call-to-curb-online-extremism.
- Clarke, Stewart (May 14, 2019). "'Hello Brother', Based on New Zealand Mosque Shootings, in the works". https://variety.com/2019/film/news/hello-brother-new-zealand-mosque-shootings-film-moez-masoud-acamedia-pictures-1203214368.
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- Prime Minister's statement on the shooting incident in Christchurch, New Zealand Australian Liberal Party
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- Christchurch shooter's links to Austrian far right 'more extensive than thought'. Emails show Brenton Tarrant was invited to meet Identitarian leader Martin Sellner, according to reports in Europe by Jason Wilson (15 May 2019 22.15 EDT) The Guardian.
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- China Stresses Investment, Invokes New Zealand Massacre in Defending Treatment of Muslims. The Wall Street Journal. April 10, 2019. Accessed April 13, 2019. Although the written article may not be visible to all readers in its entirety, one may still watch the video report.
- "Christchurch mosque shootings: Accused gunman donated $3650 to far-right French group Generation Identity" "The New Zealand Herald" April 5, 2019. Accessed April 13, 2019.
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- . CBS News. March 15, 2019. Accessed April 13, 2019.