Thousands expected to attend civic vigil at Forsyth Barr

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A huge turnout is expected for tonight’s civic vigil at Forsyth Barr Stadium, as the community rallies in support of the Muslim community.

Originally planned by Otago University Amnesty International Group (Amnesty Otago), in the wake of Friday’s mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques, the vigil quickly snowballed beyond the group’s capacity to manage it.

The Dunedin City Council stepped in to help co-ordinate, and made the decision on Tuesday to shift the vigil from the Octagon to the stadium, to allow more people to safely attend.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said council staff had heard that large numbers of people were planning to take part, including thousands of University of Otago students and staff.

University of Otago vice-chancellor, professor Harlene Hayne said the university contingent would march silently en masse from the campus at 5.45pm.

“This is our opportunity to walk together in solidarity and silence in support of our Muslim community,” Prof Hayne said.

In organising the event, the DCC and Amnesty Otago had worked closely with the Muslim community, as well as Police, Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council, the Dunedin Interfaith Council and the Otago University Students’ Association.

Amnesty Otago co-president Alva Feldmeier told The Star the event arose from the strong desire to give a message of support and solidarity to the Muslim community.

“We want to show that we stand against this hate, and we will not let it break us apart.

“We need to come together, hold hands, hug each other, and stand together in solidarity.”

The vigil will start at 7pm with a mana whenua welcome and will include speeches by the Mayor and representatives of the Muslim community and prayers from faith groups across the city.