People join rallies worldwide to honour Paris victims

2015-01-11 16:15
Paris rally (AP)

Paris rally (AP)

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Paris - People gathered in cities around the world on Sunday to honour the 17 victims who died during three days of bloodshed in Paris last week, and to support freedom of expression.

The biggest event was in Paris, where hundreds of thousands of people, including leaders from around the world, were expected to take part in a massive rally, days after the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers and a kosher grocery.

A look at the gatherings in other cities across the globe:


About 18 000 people gathered in front of the French embassy next to Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate in an impressive show of solidarity for the victims of the Paris attacks. Many brought flowers or pencils and help up signs saying "Je suis Charlie" or "Je suis Juif" (I am a Jew).

Some protesters also held up cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and played French chansons on CD players they had brought along. Many participants at the rally were French citizens, but altogether, the crowd reflected the cosmopolitan flair of Berlin - people could be heard speaking a mélange of German, English, French, Russian and many other European languages.

Marieke Zwarter, a 24-year-old Dutch university student who studies film and lives in Berlin, said she attended the rally to "show that we should not be afraid and will not allow these terrorists to divide our societies."

Her friend, 20-year-old Russian Polina Panfilova, who studies political science in Berlin, was carrying white flowers.

"It's important that we're all here," she said. "We are sending a clear signal that we won't let the terrorists win."


Landmarks including Tower Bridge and the London Eye ferris wheel were lit in the red, white and blue of the French tricolor flag. The French colors were also projected onto the facade of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, where more than 1 000 people gathered on Sunday in solidarity with the French people.

Many carried "Je suis Charlie" signs, and some held pens aloft as a tribute to the slain cartoonists.

Mayor Boris Johnson attended the rally and said it had been organized to express with Paris "our feelings of unity in grief and in outrage, and obviously in determination of these two great historic cities of freedom to stand together."

London has been hit by several major terrorist attacks, the most lethal in July 2005, when four al-Qaida-inspired bombers killed 52 people on three subway trains and a bus.


Hundreds of people gathered in Madrid to express their revulsion at the Paris attacks and support for freedom of speech.

Several hundred Muslims carrying banners saying "Not in our name" rallied at Madrid's Atocha square, next to the train station where in March 2004 bombs on rush-hour trains killed 191 people in Europe's deadliest Islamic terror attack. A small group of Muslim religious leaders then laid a wreath with a ribbon saying "In solidarity with France" outside the French Embassy in Madrid where the ambassador received them.

At nearby Puerta del Sol square, hundreds of mainly French protesters drew cartoons and held aloft signs saying "Je suis Charlie."

Rallies were also held in other Spanish cities, including Barcelona and Valencia.


About a hundred people, mostly French citizens, took part in a so-called Silent March in Moscow's Gorky Park to honour the 17 victims of the terror attacks in France and show support for freedom of expression.

"I am a French citizen who wants to tell the terrorists that we will fight against the terror and for freedom," said France's ambassador to Russia, Jean-Maurice Ripert, who was among the marchers.

In the evening, dozens of Muscovites came to the French embassy to lay flowers and express their solidarity.


Around 200 protesters gathered in the Lebanese capital Beirut to condemn the attacks in France, carrying signs that said "We are not afraid," and "Je Suis Ahmad," — referring to the name of the French Muslim policeman who was killed by the attackers as he tried to defend the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The demonstration was made more poignant for its location: a reflective pool built to commemorate a prominent Arab writer, Samir Kassir, who was assassinated 10 years ago during a spate of killings that targeted politicians and writers living in Lebanon who were critical of neighbouring Syria.


About 200 Palestinians and foreign supporters held a solidarity rally in the central Manara Square in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Participants held French and Palestinian flags.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said France and the Palestinians share the same values - liberty, equality and "saving the modern civilization against the criminals who are spreading all across the Arab world and they have attacked the heart of France."


Several hundred people gathered at a memorial ceremony at Jerusalem's City Hall to express solidarity with France and the French Jewish community. The gathering, led by Mayor Nir Barket and the city's chief rabbi, included many French Jewish immigrants to Israel.

Many participants held signs saying "Je Suis Charlie," or "Israel is Charlie," written in Hebrew. The city said it was hoisting 1 500 French flags throughout Jerusalem, and setting up a makeshift memorial downtown where people could post sympathy notes.

Many Israelis have identified with France, both because of Israel's long history battling Islamic militants and because four of the victims in Paris were Jewish.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led a delegation to attend the mass rally in Paris. The Israeli leader called on French Jews to move to Israel amid a rising tide of attacks on their community. He also announced that the four Jewish victims, killed in a hostage standoff at a kosher supermarket, were expected to be buried in Israel.


Hundreds of people rallied in downtown Sydney's Martin Place, a plaza where a shotgun-wielding Islamic State movement supporter took 18 people hostage in a café last month. The standoff ended 16 hours later when police stormed the café in a barrage of gunfire to free the captives. Two of the hostages and the gunman died.

More than 500 Australians and French nationals stood side by side holding signs bearing the words "Je suis Charlie" - French for "I am Charlie" - and "Freedom" as they marched in condemnation of the Paris attacks.

"We have to stand united," France's ambassador to Australia, Christophe Lecourtier, told the crowd.

Among the French now residing in Sydney who attended the rally was Felix Delhomme, 27.

"People are sending a message that we're all together," he said. "We want to be able to maintain our freedom of speech. We are mostly concerned about the backlash there might be against the Muslim community. They're not more responsible for what happened than I am."


A couple of hundred people, mostly French residents of Japan, gathered in the courtyard of the French Institute in Tokyo, holding a minute of silence and singing "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem. They then held up pieces of paper that read "Je suis Charlie" in French or the Japanese translation.

The institute, which functions as a language school, was running as normal during the ceremony, with students shuffling in, as the French flag — tied with a black ribbon — hung over the balcony.

"I came here to give support to fellow artists and I believe we should stand so these things don't happen again," said Alexandre Kerbam, 43, a French resident of Japan who works as a body painter and hair stylist.


On Saturday, hundreds of mostly French-speaking New Yorkers braved below-freezing temperatures and held pens aloft at a rally in Washington Square Park, where a leather-clad pole dancer gyrated in a provocative display meant to reflect the over-the-top cartoons in Charlie Hebdo.

The dancer's live soundtrack came from a concert grand piano hauled into the Manhattan square for the occasion as she twirled under a sign that read "Je suis Charlie."

Olivier Souchard, a French-born New York resident who brought his family and friends, explained the fierce support for freedom of expression that drove Charlie Hebdo's images of the Prophet Mohammed.

"What we are afraid of is less freedom for more security - it's muzzling," Souchard said. He said he's been in touch with his friend Philippe Lancon, a Charlie Hebdo columnist who is recovering from surgery after being shot in the face in the attack.

Read more on:    us  |  france  |  australia  |  japan  |  paris shooting

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