COUNCIL leader Chris Read and the region’s crime tsar have spoken out after the gunman behind the New Zealand terrorist attack reportedly had ‘For Rotherham’ written on ammunition used in the massacre.
The gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch yesterday and the writing is being regarded as a reference to so-called Muslim grooming gangs.
Cllr Read said the gunman had sought to use Rotherham’s history to “justify his actions” and described the link as “twisted”.
South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings (pictured) called it an “abhorrent and obnoxious” link.
Cllr Read tweeted: “Our thoughts are with all those affected, and of course first and foremost with the Muslim community. All decent people will be revolted by the sickening ideology of those who seek to divide us.
“That the perpetrator of this violence apparently sought in some twisted way to use our town’s history to justify his actions makes this personal to us. Rotherham has already seen far too much violence. Our community will continue to stand united for decency and the rule of law.”
Dr Billings said he had been shocked to see Rotherham named, but played down the link, saying: “My feeling is that this is just one reference to lots of incidents that have happened across the world and it’s no more significant than that.
“It was used as a justification. Clearly that’s abhorrent and obnoxious and indicates to me that people have lost their moral compass.”
He added: “But otherwise, it’s on a long list of incidents that have happened all across the world. We just know that people will use anything like this to try and draw attention to themselves, to divide our communities and create mayhem.
“We won’t be divided. That’s the one lesson we have learnt.”
Dr Billings reassured residents that there was nothing to suggest a link between the New Zealand terror attack and South Yorkshire. He said police here were “redoubling their efforts” and knew who a lot of the people involved in the “white supremacist movement” were.
“Our security level is already at high alert, I don’t think there’s been any change in that,” he added.
“We know these groups and how they work. They will use anything that happens in the world. Social media makes our world very small now.”
“It’s designed to create maximum division in every part of the world. We must not allow that to happen.”
The crime commissioner said he had been in contact with mosques, and police officers had also visited them to offer reassurance.
“I want to reassure members of the Muslim community that South Yorkshire Police will do everything necessary to ensure their safety.”
Dr Billings said Christchurch was a “beautiful city” and “very English”, adding: “They are used to natural disasters in New Zealand, but nothing like this.”
Rotherham child abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse tweeted: "My thoughts go out to all the victims killed today in New Zealand. Such an evil act. As a Rotherham survivor, I would like to add a message from me and my family. This was not done in our name."
Two Rotherham Advertiser employees were caught up in yesterday’s attack.
We want to continue holding local authorities to account, attending court and council meetings, as well as providing breaking news, competitions and offers – but it costs money. Online advertising does not cover costs, therefore we feel the need to ask for your help in ensuring we can provide the best possible coverage, online and in our printed products.
For as little as £1, you can support the Rotherham Advertiser – and it only takes a minute.
Click here to support local news.