Heightened security at National Remembrance Service today

Heightened security at National Remembrance Service today

Cat Stevens, Marlon Williams to perform

Anusha Bradley 

Christchurch, March 29, 2019

High Police visibility today in Christchurch (AFP Photo)

There will tight security and a big police presence at today’s National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch.

Australian Police have been brought in to help with the huge security needed for the service for the victims of the mosque terror attacks.

‘Operation Unity’

Police in New Zealand have set up Operation Unity in response to the tens of thousands of people expected at events in Christchurch and around the country.

The country has been on high security alert since mass shooting which killed 50 people on March 15, 2019.

Police said they have no information to suggest any specific risk to public safety but officers are carrying firearms and keeping a high presence on city streets.

They say it is in the hands of local authorities whether rural communities host remembrance events tomorrow, although there may be fewer events than planned for security reasons.

Flowers and other tributes left at Hagley Park (RNZ Photo by Alex Perrottet)

Tribute to Victims

This morning’s service will pay tribute to the victims and those whose lives have been changed forever and survivors from the attack will be supported by Muslims from all over the world.

Cat Stevens, who changed his name to Yusuf Islam after converting to Islam, and Marlon Williams are among several musicians to perform and dignitaries from 59 countries and the UN are also attending.

There will be free public transport to get to the park but people are being warned to plan extra time because of the road closures around the venue.

The service starts at 10 am, and will be livestreamed to events in major cities and broadcast live on RNZ and TVNZ.

Road closures and Public access points to North Hagley Park (Graphic by Christchurch City Council)

‘We are One’

The theme for the service is Ko Tātou, Tātou, We are one, which was especially important to the Muslim community who put countless hours into organising the event, Muslim Association of Canterbury President Shagaf Khan said.

“It is a message that we are all one, and we are very happy that the Muslim community is included as a local,” he said.

New Zealand politicians of all stripes and the Governor-General Dame Patsy will be in attendance, as will their Australian counterparts.

PMs, Presidents and Diplomats

Prime ministers and Presidents from the Pacific are also coming, as well as diplomatic representatives from 59 countries and the UN.

There will be several speeches, including from a survivor of the attacks, and Marlon Williams will perform a waiata. The names of all 50 killed will be read out followed by performances by Cat Stevens, Hollie Smith and Teeks.

Some schools in Christchurch will close today, or at least allow staff and students to attend the service.

Schools to close

Burnside Principal Phil Holstein said their decision to close was an easy one.

“We had one year 12 student who was killed and another three fathers of students wounded and another four close family members of students killed as well.”

Mr Holstein, who is also President of the Canterbury and West Coast Principals’ Association, said schools had sought guidance from the Ministry of Education about allowing staff and students to attend.

Burnside, Cashmere and Christchurch Boys’ High School are closing for the day, while other schools will allow students and staff to attend the service.

The service will be livestreamed to events in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, and some regional towns, and broadcast live on RNZ and TVNZ.

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson said that she expects employers in Christchurch to accommodate staff if they wish to attend, as they have for other vigils and services in the last two weeks.

Free public transport in Christchurch will aid those who do attend, but most of the roads around Hagley Park are closed, including some to pedestrians, so people are being advised to allow extra time for their journey.

Anusha Bradley is a Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above article has been published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz

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