CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — At least 49 people were shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers Friday — most if not all of them gunned down by an immigrant-hating white supremacist who apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook.
One man was arrested and charged with murder. Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court Saturday morning amid strict security and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge. The judge said “it was reasonable to assume” more such charges would follow.
Two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.
It was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.
She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Tarrant, who police say carried out at least one of the shootings, posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
The gunman also livestreamed in graphic detail 17 minutes of his rampage at Al Noor Mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets over and over, killing at least 41 people. Several more people were killed in an attack on a second mosque in the city a short time later.
At least 48 people were wounded, some critically. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.
Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. They gave no details about those taken into custody except to say that none had been on any watch list. During the Saturday morning hearing, a man who was not in court was charged with using writings to incite hatred against a race or ethnicity, but it was not clear if his case was related to Tarrant’s.
Tarrant’s relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.
On Saturday, outside one of the two mosques, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed pushed through police barricades in hopes of finding out what happened to his father and two brothers, whose cellphones rang unanswered. An officer stopped him.
“We just want to know if they are dead or alive,” Mohammed told the officer.
In the aftermath, the country’s threat level was raised from low to high, police warned Muslims against going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand, and the national airline canceled several flights in and out of Christchurch, a city of nearly 400,000.
World leaders condemned the violence and offered condolences, with President Donald Trump tweeting, “We stand in solidarity with New Zealand.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Islamic leaders pointed to the bloodbath and other such attacks as evidence of rising hostility toward Muslims since 9/11.
New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people. But it has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world. In 2015, it had just eight gun homicides.
Before Friday’s attack, New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people.
On Saturday, the prime minister said the “primary perpetrator” in the shootings was a licensed gun owner and legally acquired the five guns used. Ardern said the country’s gun laws will change as a result of the carnage, but she did not specify how.
New Zealand is also generally considered to be welcoming to migrants and refugees. On Saturday, people across the country were reaching out to Muslims in their communities on social media to volunteer acts of kindness — offering rides to the grocery store or volunteering to walk with them if they felt unsafe.
The prime minister said the attack reflected “extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”
At the White House, Trump called the bloodshed “a terrible thing” but rejected any suggestion the white nationalist movement is a rising threat around the world, saying it is “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
Tarrant, in his rambling manifesto, deemed Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity.”
His manifesto was a welter of often politically contradictory views, touching on many of the most combustible issues of the day, among them the Second Amendment right to own guns, Muslim immigration, terrorist attacks and the wealthiest 1 percent.
He portrayed himself as a racist and a fascist and raged against non-Westerners, but said China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values.
The gunman said he was not a member of any organization, acted alone and chose New Zealand to show that even the most remote parts of the world are not free of “mass immigration.”
LONDON — Internet companies scrambled Friday to remove graphic video filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shootings that was widely available on social media for hours after the horrific attack.
Facebook said it took down a livestream of the shootings and removed the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts after being alerted by police. At least 49 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand’s third-largest city.
Using what appeared to be a helmet-mounted camera, the gunman livestreamed in horrifying detail 17 minutes of the attack on worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque, where at least 41 people died. Several more worshippers were killed at a second mosque a short time later.
The shooter also left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act,” Facebook New Zealand spokeswoman Mia Garlick said in a statement.
Facebook is “removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware,” she said. “We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues.”
Twitter, YouTube owner Google and Reddit also were working to remove the footage from their sites.
The furor highlights once again the speed at which graphic and disturbing content from a tragedy can spread around the world and how Silicon Valley tech giants are still grappling with how to prevent that from happening.
British tabloid newspapers such as The Daily Mail and The Sun posted screenshots and video snippets on their websites.
New Zealand police urged people not to share the footage, and many internet users called for tech companies and news sites to take the material down.
Some people expressed outrage on Twitter that the videos were still circulating hours after the attack.
“Google is actively inciting violence,” tweeted British journalist Carole Cadwalladr with a screen grab of search results of the video.
The video’s spread underscores the challenge for Facebook even after stepping up efforts to keep inappropriate and violent content off its platform. In 2017 it said it would hire 3,000 people to review videos and other posts, on top of the 4,500 people Facebook already tasks with identifying criminal and other questionable material for removal.
But that’s just a drop in the bucket of what is needed to police the social media platform, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy.”
If Facebook wanted to monitor every livestream to prevent disturbing content from making it out in the first place, “they would have to hire millions of people,” something it’s not willing to do, said Vaidhyanathan, who teaches media studies at the University of Virginia.
“We have certain companies that have built systems that have inadvertently served the cause of violent hatred around the world,” Vaidhyanathan said.
WASHINGTON — Unbowed by a congressional rebuke, President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency on Friday in a demonstration that he is not through fighting for his signature campaign promise, which stands largely unfulfilled 18 months before voters decide whether to grant him another term.
Trump rejected an effort by Congress to block the emergency declaration he’d used to circumvent lawmakers as he tried to shake loose funds for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The monthslong confrontation now moves to the courts, but not before marking a new era of divided government in Washington and Republicans’ increasing independence from the White House.
“Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution,” Trump said, “and I have the duty to veto it.”
A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats in approving the joint resolution on Thursday as both parties strained to exert their power in new ways. It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump’s veto, though House Democrats will try nonetheless on March 26.
Despite the reproach, Trump seized the opportunity to publicly rebuff Congress and show his commitment to the border wall. In embracing the opportunity to deploy the constitutional power of the veto for the first time, he treated the occasion with all the traditional pomp of a bill-signing.
Trump was surrounded in the Oval Office by supporters, including law enforcement officials and the parents of children killed by people in the country illegally, who offered profuse thanks and frequent applause. Trump dramatically signed his veto message and then held the document up for the cameras to capture.
Trump wants to use the emergency order to divert billions of federal dollars earmarked for defense spending toward the southern border wall. It still faces several legal challenges from Democratic state attorneys general and environmental groups who argue the emergency declaration was unconstitutional.
Those cases could prevent Trump from diverting extra money to barrier construction for months or longer. American Civil Liberties Union, which filed one of the challenges, said the veto is meaningless, like the declaration in the first place.
“Congress has rejected the president’s declaration, and now the courts will be the ultimate arbiter of its legality. We look forward to seeing him in court and to the shellacking that he will receive at the hands of an independent judiciary,” said Executive Director Anthony Romero.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s veto a “lawless power grab” and railed that, even after both chambers tried to stop him, Trump “has chosen to continue to defy the Constitution, the Congress and the will of the American people.”Trump, however, insisted the situation on the southern border is “a tremendous national emergency,” adding, “our immigration system is stretched beyond the breaking point.”
Many lawmakers said Thursday’s vote was not necessarily a rejection of the president or the wall, but protections against future presidents — namely a Democrat who might want to declare an emergency on climate change, gun control or any number of other issues.