Thousands of New Zealanders turned out across the nation today to unite against racism and extremism and to show the Christchurch mosque gunman that "he has failed".

The words of black civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were cited by speakers during events in both Christchurch and Auckland.

"Hate brings power and now we are going to use that power of hate to stand up for the right things - peace, love, tolerance - and to stamp out all that is wrong with the world – fascism, racism and bigotry in all its forms," said Auckland event organiser Danni Wilkinson.

More than a thousand people attended a rally in central Auckland this afternoon to oppose racism in the wake of the Christchurch massacre that claimed the lives of 50 people. / Video by Dean Purcell

This evening, thousands filled Christchurch's North Hagley Park, just across the famous central city green space from Al Noor Mosque where 42 Muslims were shot dead at Friday prayer on March 15 – before the lone gunman's killing spree continued across town at Linwood Mosque.

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Linwood's Imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah, who survived the shooting, opened the vigil with an Islamic prayer.

"Whatever happens will never, never separate us," he said. "This is New Zealand, we live in Aroha, Aroha, Aroha."

The names of all 50 victims were read out before University of Canterbury Muslim Association president Bariz Shah thanked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for being the true definition of leading by example - not just someone who "dresses fancy".

"We're all in the same waka," he said, urging Kiwis to "stand up strong" against Islamophobia.

Okirano Tilaia, head boy of Cashmere High School which lost two students in the attack, reminded the crowd of Martin Luther King Jnr's words: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can."

"We must unite in love and not hatred," Tilaia said.

Moments of reflection during the vigil for the 50 victims of the terror attacks, is read in North Hagley Park in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Moments of reflection during the vigil for the 50 victims of the terror attacks, is read in North Hagley Park in Christchurch. Photo / Mark Mitchell

His words chimed with Aiden Milani, 37, and Parvaneh Yavari, 38, who emigrated to New Zealand from Iran seven years ago.

They helped their 4-year-old son Rayan Milani to make a sign to wave at this evening's rally, which said: "We are united #teamhumanity."

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Aiden Milani and Parvaneh Yavari helped their 4-year-old son Rayan Milani make a sign which said:
Aiden Milani and Parvaneh Yavari helped their 4-year-old son Rayan Milani make a sign which said: "We are united #teamhumanity." Photo / Mark Mitchell

Little Rayan's kindergarten was locked down after the mosque terror attacks and he was due to get his hair cut at a family friend's barbershop the following day.

But Jordanian barber Wasseim Alsati and his 4-year-old daughter Alin were both shot by the Al Noor Mosque gunman. Alin is now fighting for her life in Auckland's Starship children's hospital, while her father was seriously hurt.

"I was heartbroken, I could not believe it," said business analyst Parvaneh.

Parvaneh struggled in the aftermath of the shootings, with her colleagues sending her home from work on Monday because she wasn't herself.

"Even though I am not Muslim, but come from a Muslim country, they were looking out for me."

But the other day, she took Rayan to lay flowers at the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch city centre. Her family back in Iran had urged her not to take her young son along with her.

"I wanted to show that we are not scared," she said.

"We will stand up against hate, extremism, terrorism and racism."

Wayne Morris, 72, dusted off a red-and-white chequered shemagh headscarf that he bought while holidaying in Dubai seven years ago.

After some hasty YouTube tutorials, he was ready to wear it to this evening's vigil in Christchurch to show support and solidarity for the Muslim community.

Along with wife Catherine, they sat with friends Shamina and John Stewart.

John said he "became a Muslim" when he married Fijian Indian Shamina 40 years ago.

They all wished that the alleged gunman arrested over the terror attack – who has been refused access to any media while in prison - could see media coverage of today's turnout.

"I wish he could see all of this solidarity and community support against him and see that he has failed," Catherine said.