Greater Manchester Police have arrested four people for comments made in person and online about the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The first reported arrest was of a 24-year-old man from the Oldham area for “malicious communications” on social media, with police alleging he was “making reference and support for the terrible events” and taking him into custody on March 16th.
The following morning a 38-year-old woman from Rochdale — site of one of Britain’s more infamous rape gang scandals — was arrested for what the force described as “a racially aggravated public order offence” involving “comments made online about the New Zealand attack.”
Separately, a 33-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman were arrested, also in Rochdale, on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences following “a report of a taxi driver being abused and threatened by members of the public who were referencing the terrorist attacks in New Zealand” in the small hours of March 17th.
Update on GMP arrests relating to remarks made about New Zealand attacks https://t.co/pjYLzVXMsC
— G M Police (@gmpolice) March 17, 2019
“The events which happened two days ago in New Zealand continue to cause huge upset with people of all faiths from across Greater Manchester,” commented Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson.
“Over the weekend we have had, however, a small number of incidents where people have either posted or made remarks referencing the horrible events in New Zealand, particularly online where people often think it is acceptable to abuse others.
“Some of these comments are frankly disgusting. I am amazed how some people think it is acceptable to make such careless and disrespectful remarks,” he added.
“People are entitled to free speech and this is always respected, however, where this crosses the boundary into criminal offences, let me be really clear, we will make arrests and if the evidence is there we will seek the prosecution of those involved.”
@TalatFarooqAwan spoke with @AndrewGraystone. The man from Manchester who's picture outside a mosque went viral. Holding a placard of "You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray"#Manchester #Christchurch pic.twitter.com/KqM8Xihyoy
— BBC Radio Manchester (@BBCRadioManc) March 17, 2019
Local people have also shown solidarity with the Muslim community in Manchester, however, with a picture of Christian charity worker standing outside a mosque during Friday prayers reading “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray” going viral on social media.
Reaction to the Christchurch attack in some other countries has been fiercer, with hundreds of Muslim protesters in Turkey demanding that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia be turned into a mosque in response to comments the suspect is said to have made about pulling down its minarets in his manifesto.
The Hagia Sophia was originally a Byzantine cathedral, with the minarets being added after it was converted into a mosque when Istanbul — then known as Constantinople — was conquered by the Muslim Ottomans in 1453.
Modern Turkey’s secularist founder, Kemal Atatürk, attempted to depoliticise the iconic structure by turning it into a museum in the 1930s, but pressure for it to become a mosque again has been growing under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s the increasingly Islamist government.
Turkey: Protesters Want Hagia Sophia Turned Into Mosque in Response to Christchurch Attack https://t.co/CHf4vPo7qm
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 16, 2019