Classmates attend candlelight vigil for murdered teen
Hundreds of grief stricken mourners have gathered for an evening candlelight vigil at the site where a beloved teen was violently murdered this week.
Classmates of slain teen Solomone Taufeulungaki united as they marched in a formal procession from their St Albans classroom to Brimbank Shopping Centre this afternoon.
Mourners peacefully gathered around the makeshift memorial site to the 15-year-old, who was murdered on Tuesday in the violent knife attack.
At the scene there were hundreds of bunches of flowers left as well as cards, balloons and pictures.
Leaders from the Tongan community, some dressed in traditional clothing led the evening vigil, which began with prayers sung by a church choir.
One Tongan community leader spoke of the power of community and love as he addressed the crowd, and led them in a minutes silence.
"Here we stand together as a community," he said.
"We are standing here today as one people to mourn our son, our brother."
Other Pacific Islander community elders, including from Samoa and the Cook Islands, paid tribute to a "beautiful son, cousin, and member of the community" and called for unity.
"Hopefully the sacrifice of Solomone will being is back together again," one leader said.
"If the leg is hurt then the whole body hurts..that's why we're all here, we feel the pain."
Others performed a war dance and a minute's silence was observed.
Many exchanged hugs, pats on the back and wiped away tears.
A representative from the Maori community addressed the generational divide that he said left many young Islander people lost.
"If we're not listening you need to shake us," he said.
"I would rather be shaken by one of the young people rather than to stand at the foot of one of our future leaders and bury them before they had a chance."
Representatives from the Islander community passed around white balloons which they released into the night sky as one.
Solomone's oldest brother, Mape, 20, spoke of the importance of forgiveness.
Other family members cried and hugged each other.
"If we love one another we can make the world a better place," he said.
Mape said his family had some comfort in the belief they would see Solomone again.
"He was my little brother you know, there's no point hurting as we know we're going to see him again," he said.
"I'm not hurting anymore, we're content."
One attendee Mary, also from the Tongan community who preferred not to give her surname, had driven from Hoppers Crossing to pay tribute to a young man she had never met.
"It's sad, we came here to support," she said.
"He was Tongan too."
Another woman who attended the vigil with her three children, also preferred to remain nameless, said she lived across the road from the scene.
"It's very sad sad," she said. "My own son, he's 13 so I'm here to show respect as a person in the community."
Some mourners were seated on plastic chairs, arranged in rows for the ceremony, as they braved a bitingly cold night.
Police saturated the area with a highly visible presence including members of the mounter branch and public order response team.
They were on high alert following police intelligence about reprisal attacks.
Commander Tim Hansen said police were actively talking to local school principals and the Education Department to formulate security measures should there be another "affray or edged weapon attack".
"From the time of the incident we turned our mind to the likelihood of retribution and reprisal attacks," Cdr Hansen said.
He said should intelligence indicate an imminent threat or risk of violence and weapons attacks police would declare a designated area that would give them special stop-and-search powers.
"We are acutely aware of the risk these street gangs present to us, we see it," Cdr Hansen said.
"We have a tailored person of interest program across Melbourne's west and also across Melbourne's southeast because we know there's an interplay between these gangs."
Sisters Natasha and Debbie Tupai from Sunshine both wore taovalas traditional Tongan clothing worn on formal occasions.
They said they were at the vigil out of a sense of community and friends in common with Taufeulungaki.
"Everyone is brother and sister," Natasha said.
Originally published as Classmates march to candlelight vigil for murdered teen