HOUSTON — Houston police are stepping up patrols around local mosques after the New Zealand attacks that killed 49.
The city’s police chief and mayor condemned those hate crimes while promising solidarity with the local Islamic community.
Chief Art Acevedo told reporters there are no specific threats to the Houston area, but the department is boosting patrols at the city’s 33 mosques as a precaution and checking with federal and state agencies around the country.
“It’s pretty sickening,” Chief Acevedo said about the New Zealand shootings. “It takes all of us together to stand against it to be able to put a stop to it.”
Chief Acevedo said there’s no known link between the Houston area and the Christchurch mosque attack suspects or victims.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and local faith leaders stood alongside the chief inside the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, vowing to stand in solidarity with local Muslims.
“A heinous act committed against one is a heinous act committed against us all regardless of where it takes place in this world,” Turner said.
Imams leading an estimated 300 Muslims in prayer at the River Oaks Islamic Center on Friday afternoon called on elected officials and law enforcement to protect worshippers, while also expressing condolences for the New Zealand victims.
“It’s very bad,” said Ahmed Jouda, who attended prayer. “I don’t like it.”
“I woke up this morning, heard the news, I said, ‘Oh my God, just another one,’” Ehsan Kassem said. “It’s beyond words.”
Both Jouda and Kassem said they chose faith over fear when deciding to pray at the mosque Friday.
“I have to do my duty, no matter what,” Jouda said.
Worshippers received not only words of support, but also flowers, letters, and in-person gestures of solidarity.
Ruth Hoffman-Lach, who lives nearby, stood outside the mosque during and after Friday afternoon prayers holding a sign reading “Love Wins."
“When everything is dark and depressing, and people are being hateful and horrible, it’s important to remind people that that’s the minority,” Hoffman-Lach said. “That’s not who most of us are.”
- 49 killed at mosques in 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'
- HPD, HCSO increasing security, adding patrols at mosques
- How you can support New Zealand attack victims and their families
- Tech companies remove video of New Zealand mosques shootings
- Leaders around the world condemn New Zealand mosques shootings
- 49 killed in New Zealand mosque shootings