AP News in Brief 03-16-19

  • Police block the road near the shooting at a mosque in Linwood, Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

49 killed at mosques in ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — At least 49 people were shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers Friday — most if not all of them gunned down by an immigrant-hating white supremacist who apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook.

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One man was arrested and charged with murder. He appeared in court Saturday morning amid strict security and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge. The judge said “it was reasonable to assume” more such charges would follow.

Two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.

It was by far the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting many of the victims could be migrants or refugees.

After massacre, Trump downplays white nationalism threat

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump played down any threat posed by racist white nationalism on Friday after the gunman accused of the New Zealand mosque massacre called the president “a symbol of renewed white identity.”

Trump, whose own previous responses to the movement have drawn scrutiny, expressed sympathy for the victims who died at “places of worship turned into scenes of evil killing.” But he declined to join expressions of mounting concern about white nationalism, saying “I don’t, really” when asked whether he thought it was a rising threat around the world.

“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” Trump said. “If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet. But it’s certainly a terrible thing.”

Trump was asked about white nationalism and the shooting deaths of 49 people at mosques in Christchurch after he formally vetoed Congress’ resolution to block his declaration of a national emergency at the Mexico border.

Questioned about the accused gunman’s reference to him, Trump professed ignorance.

Students globally protest warming, pleading for their future

WASHINGTON — Students across a warming globe pleaded for their lives, future and planet Friday, demanding tough action on climate change.

From the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, angry students in more than 100 countries walked out of classes to protest what they see as the failures by their governments.

Well more than 150,000 students and adults who were mobilized by word of mouth and social media protested in Europe, according to police estimates. But the initial turnout in the United States did not look quite as high.

“Borders, languages and religions do not separate us,” 8-year-old Havana Chapman-Edwards, who calls herself “the tiny diplomat,” told hundreds of protesters at the U.S. Capitol. “Today we are telling the truth and we do not take no for an answer.”

Thousands of New York City students protested at locations including Columbus Circle, City Hall, the American Museum of Natural History and a football field at the Bronx High School of Science. A police spokesman said there were arrests but he did not know how many.

Greyhound won’t let US drop migrants in depots

PHOENIX — Greyhound Lines Inc. is no longer allowing U.S. authorities to drop off immigrant families inside bus stations, forcing those who have been released from custody to wait outside until they have a ticket.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that it had been asked to drop off migrants outside facilities instead of busing them in.

ICE for years has dropped off migrants at Greyhound stations, largely in Phoenix, after releasing them pending court hearings to decide whether they can stay in the country. From the stations, they travel to their intended destination in the United States.

Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said the Dallas-based company is experiencing an “unprecedented increase of individuals” at certain bus terminals and that travelers need tickets to get in. She said the policy applies to anyone who lacks a ticket.

From wire sources

“Our priority is to safely and efficiently get customers to their destinations,” Booker said in a statement.

Asylum seeker abandons US plans in face of new policy

TIJUANA, Mexico — Juan Carlos Perla says he spent his first night in the U.S. in a cold immigration cell with 21 others at the nation’s busiest border crossing. Fluorescent lights were always on in the basement holding area. Space was so tight that he laid his sleeping mat next to a toilet.

The 36-year-old from El Salvador soon reunited with his wife and three sons, ages 6, 4 and 10 months, who were in another cell, and the family returned to Tijuana, Mexico, to await asylum hearings in San Diego. They were one of the first families to contend with a radical U.S. policy shift that makes asylum seekers stay in Mexico while their cases wind through immigration courts. Looking rattled hours later, Perla said he would skip his court date and instead settle in Mexico.

“Our fear is that we lose our case and get deported” back to El Salvador, Perla said. “That’s suicide for me, my wife and my children.”

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Perla told a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer that he and his family abandoned their small bakery in the Salvadoran capital after he missed a monthly extortion payment to the 18th Street gang. They beat him and threatened to kill him and his family if he failed to pay the next installment, according to an interview transcript.

If his family’s experience is a sign, the policy may be having its intended effect of discouraging asylum claims, which have helped fuel a court backlog of more than 800,000 cases and forced people to wait years for a ruling. Trump administration officials say they want to deter weak claims, freeing up judges to consider more deserving cases.

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