More than 350 people gathered north of Times Square on Sunday just over a week after 50 people were killed in two mosque attacks in New Zealand, demanding justice and calling for peace.
The group, many of them Muslim, chanted "Muslim blood is not cheap, for the victims we will speak" and held signs like "United Against Islamophobia" and "A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything." One group held a large New Zealand flag with a sign proclaiming "We are the flowers of one garden."
Raja Abdulhaq, executive director of Majlis Ash-Shura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York, said the rally was planned with the Muslim community as well as with Jewish and Christian allies.
"This is an opportunity for us to be together and, at the same time, stand against white supremacy that has become a danger to every single minority group in this country," he said. "This is an area where we want to be visible, to show the people that Muslims are also human beings that deserve dignity. … This is our responsibility to stand together and make sure that we are treated as equal human beings."
Fauzia Rafi, 39, Bellerose, came to the rally with her husband and twin 10-year-old daughters. She is Muslim and while she said she doesn’t typically wear a hijab, she chose to wear one on Sunday.
"This is not going to take us away from our religion and our faith. We are proud of who we are, we are peace. The actions of some individuals does not represent our religion and us. And the actions of other individuals does not scare us either," Rafi said, overcome by emotion. "I’m not somebody who wears her religion on her sleeve, but right now, honestly, I want to. And as an American I feel like I have the safety and my Constitution gives me the right to be who I am."
Isaac Hindin-Miller, 34, is originally from New Zealand but has been in living in New York for seven years. On Sunday, he attended the rally, helping to hold up a large New Zealand flag.
"I think it’s really important that we as New Zealanders living in New York show solidarity with the Muslim community and our aroha," he said, using a word he said means love in the native language of New Zealand. "We need as many eyes on this as possible. We need to show the world that we are standing against hatred and xenophobia and Islamophobia and racism. And we need love."
Khadija Idrissi, 51, lives in Bensonhurst and is originally from Morocco. She said she was there on Sunday to call for justice, calling the shooting "inhuman."
"It can happen anywhere," she said. "There are a lot of sick people. It’s not somebody that’s normal. … We all believe in some God — Muslim, Jewish, Christian, anybody — we all have some faith in us."
Jacinda Taylor, 22, was passing by the rally, having just moved to Clinton Hill from Auckland, New Zealand, this week. She stood on the sidelines, watching the rally with tears falling down her face.
"We just didn’t realize the repercussions [the shooting is] actually having and the impact it’s having on the rest of the world," Taylor said. "It’s so overwhelming."