Attack In New Zealand Appears To Be Motivated By White Supremacy

Originally published on March 15, 2019 12:10 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're following news in New Zealand this morning. Two mosques were attacked in a mass shooting in the city of Christchurch. At least 49 people are dead and many others injured. The prime minister immediately called this a terrorist attack. We want to hear the voice here of one eyewitness named Carl Pomare. He was driving past one of the mosques and then helped tend to victims when he saw the violence unfolding.

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CARL POMARE: Next thing we heard rapid fire - semi-automatic shots being fired. And we saw, literally, people falling to the ground in front of us, right opposite us on the side of the road.

GREENE: And this is the reaction...

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POMARE: We saw them being shot.

GREENE: ...This morning - this is the reaction this morning of White House National Security Adviser John Bolton.

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JOHN BOLTON: We're obviously greatly disturbed by this - what seems to be a terror attack - this hate crime in New Zealand. We've been in touch with our embassy overnight. We're still getting details. But the State Department and others are following up on it. We're very concerned. We're going to cooperate with the New Zealand authorities to the extent we can.

GREENE: We have Jonathan Greenblatt on the line with us. He's head of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights bigotry.

Thank you for taking the time.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: Thank you for having me.

GREENE: The reporting we have so far suggests that the attacker here posted some kind of manifesto that was full of hate speech. And we've not independently verified it yet, but our reporting suggests it's talking about a genocide against people who are white in the world, drawing inspiration from extreme views in the United States. What have you made of this so far?

GREENBLATT: Well, first of all, I would just say at the ADL, we are devastated by this attack. And all of us express condolences and sympathy to the Muslim community in New Zealand and around the world. I mean, coming off the heels of the awful massacre that happened in Squirrel Hill, Pa., late last year, we know what it's like to see a community attacked and assaulted in a sacred space. And really, we send thoughts and prayers. You know, we've been looking at what happened. And I think one of the things to note, David, is that this attack not only clearly was motivated by white supremacy, it appeared to have been optimized for social media. So indeed, the shooter streamed the attack on Facebook. The YouTube was uploaded - the video was uploaded to YouTube before they took it down. And we also saw that he posted on Twitter and a platform called 8chan right before the attack began. And he published this 72-page manifesto that referenced people like Anders Breivik, the murderer in Norway who killed 77 people in 2011, and Dylann Roof, who murdered people in a African-American church here in South Carolina in 2015. This was motivated by white supremacy and designed so that it would be seen as following in the footsteps of these other killers.

GREENE: How common is this? - to see hate speech, you know, in an - online and social media platforms used and all of this turned into an actual, you know, mass shooting this terrible.

GREENBLATT: Well, I think, you know, this act of violence really doesn't have a precedent, as far as we know, murdering people in a mosque like this. And the social media dimension is something new. However, hate speech online is an increasing problem. We've been engaging companies on this because we've got a big problem on our hands. And we need to recognize that social media allows white supremacy, much like other forms of hate, to travel across borders. And we've got to recognize it for the global terror threat that it really is.

GREENE: Jonathan Greenblatt heads the Anti-Defamation League. We'll be talking much more about this news from New Zealand this morning. Thank you very much.

GREENBLATT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.