‘I Am Charlie’: Mass rallies for French massacre victims

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Defiant crowds swarm into the Place de la Republique, barely a kilometer from the scene of the bloodbath

'JE SUIS CHARLIE.' Thousands gather for a candle light vigil on Place de la Republique in central Paris, hours after the attack by two gunmen on the 'Charly Hebdo' headquarters in Paris, France, 07 January 2015. Ian Langsdon/EPA

‘JE
SUIS CHARLIE.’ Thousands gather for a candle light vigil on Place de la
Republique in central Paris, hours after the attack by two gunmen on
the ‘Charly Hebdo’ headquarters in Paris, France, 07 January 2015. Ian
Langsdon/EPA

PARIS, France – More than 100,000 people gathered across France to
pay tribute to the victims of Wednesday’s (January 7) massacre by
Islamist gunmen in Paris, as thousands also rallied in other European
cities and the “I Am Charlie” hashtag swept the Internet.

With the gunmen still on the loose in Paris after killing 12 people,
defiant crowds swarmed into the Place de la Republique, barely a
kilometer (half a mile) from the scene of the bloodbath at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly.

At least 35,000 held vigils in Paris, and some 20,000 people turned
out in the French cities of Lyon and Toulouse, police said. Thousands
more took to the streets in cities including Bordeaux and Marseille.

There were also rallies in European cities such as Berlin, London and Lausanne.

Many demonstrators wore black stickers with the words “Je suis
Charlie” (I am Charlie), a slogan aimed at showing solidarity with the
victims of the deadliest attack in France in decades and in support of
the paper’s decision to print controversial prophet Mohammed cartoons.

Others waved banners with slogans such as “Press freedom has no
price” and “Charb mort libre” (Charb died free), a reference to the
newspaper’s slain editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier.

Charbonnier was one of four cartoonists killed in the attack that also left 11 people injured.

The provocative magazine had repeatedly published controversial
cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, in part as a campaign to defend
freedom of the press, but offending many Muslims who view such
depictions as blasphemous.

‘Not Afraid’

A naked woman leads a chant during a protest protest vigil for the victims of the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, January 7, 2014. The projected text behind the protesters read, 'We Are Charlie.' Ryan Songalia/Rappler

A
naked woman leads a chant during a protest protest vigil for the
victims of the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, at the Place
de la Republique in Paris, France, January 7, 2014. The projected text
behind the protesters read, ‘We Are Charlie.’ Ryan Songalia/Rappler

“It’s terrible that these people were murdered. In future, no one
will be able to speak his mind. We have to demonstrate in our
thousands,” said Beatrice Cano, a woman in her fifties carrying the
latest issue of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Others carried candles or even pencils as a symbol of support for freedom of the press.

The “Je suis Charlie” slogan and hashtag spread quickly on the Internet, with Charlie Hebdo
itself replacing its homepage with the phrase printed on a black
background. Clicking on a link revealed translations of the phrase into a
number of languages, including Arabic.

Many replaced their social media profile pictures with the slogan,
including the US embassy in France for a time. The hashtag
#jesuischarlie was used hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter.

Others reposted old cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, including one showing a jihadist set to decapitate Mohammed.

Media outlets globally tweeted tributes, including a drawing of the
four cartoonists and a quote from Charbonnier: “I prefer to die standing
than live on my knees.”

Photos showing protesters holding a sign reading “Not Afraid” were
also widely shared online while the slogan “the pen is mightier than the
sword” was repeatedly tweeted. – Rappler.com

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