Pacific Islander leaders in Melbourne have called for unity during a blessing service for fatally stabbed teenager Solomone Taufeulungaki.
“We pray that our communities can come together and make sure there is no retaliation from either side,” a Samoan church leader said.
“We come here to make sure the Samoan people stand with you and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) June 19, 2020
The deeply-Christian Pacific Islander community has turned out in the hundreds to mourn the 15-year-old’s death allegedly at the hands of a group of youths in Deer Park on Tuesday.
Other than the Tongan community to which Solomone belonged, leaders from the Samoan and Cook Islands communities spoke about peace and understanding between all.
“Let’s stand together because we are all in the Pacific Ocean,” another leader said.
Another leader pleaded with “young people of the social media generation” to make older people listen to their problems.
“You need to shake us. You need to yell at us. I would rather be shaken by one of our young people … than bury them,” the speaker said.
A younger man urged young people to stay home, go to church and avoid jail.
“If you want to fight, go to the ring, go to the boxing ring,” he said.
The crowd, which had been encouraged to social distance in line with COVID-19 measures, was led in prayer and song at the place where Solomone was killed.
Police had a strong but relaxed presence, which one member of the Tongan community said was reassuring given the tensions she felt were still there among some young people as a result of the fatal stabbing.
Families with young children as well as youth gathered, holding flowers to lay at the shrine that formed since the boy’s death.
Numerous speakers offered their support and love to the Taufeulungaki family.
Deer Park has again been declared a designated area, giving police the power to stop and search for weapons, as they deploy tactics normally used for major events such as White Night or New Year’s Eve.
The stepped-up response came into effect at 2.30pm on Friday and will run until 2.30am on Saturday.
Police took the same steps on Wednesday after they received intelligence of potential violence following Solomone’s death.
Victoria Police Commander Tim Hansen on Thursday said extra resources would be on the ground for some weeks until the chances of reprisal are minimised.
“If these kids or these street gangs want to come back into other western suburbs of Melbourne and get involved in a fight, we will be there ready, waiting for them,” he said.
More than $50,000 has been raised via a GoFundMe page to cover Solomone’s funeral costs.
He was walking on Tuesday with his cousin near the Brimbank Shopping Centre in Deer Park when they were allegedly approached by a group of eight to 10 youths armed with knives.
Solomone died at the scene.
Six boys, aged between 13 and 16, were charged with violent disorder and affray over the incident.
No one has yet been charged with his death.
By Andi Yu