Vigils across Europe after deadly French attack

Cities and towns across Europe staged vigils late Wednesday in solidarity with the French people after an armed rampage against a satirical paper left at least 12 dead.

Hundreds of people, called together just hours before on social media, turned out in capitals including Berlin, London, Brussels, Madrid, Rome and Vienna to express their horror at the killings by Islamist gunmen at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

About 500 people, according to police, stood in silence in front of the French embassy in the German capital, opposite the Brandenburg Gate landmark, many holding lit candles or waving the blue European Union flag.

Others carried placards reading “Je suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie) — a slogan that went viral after the attack on Facebook and Twitter — and carried back issues of the weekly paper known for its critical caricatures.

“Long live the press, long live cartoons,” a group of Germans chanted in French.

In London, a large crowd gathered at Trafalgar Square, many holding up their mobile phones showing the “Je suis Charlie” rallying cry.

Some sang the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, holding pens aloft in a symbol of press freedom.

“I heard the news this morning like everyone else and it hit me hard,” said Frenchman Nabil Nadifi, 29, who has lived in the British capital for a few months.

“I didn’t necessarily agree with everything Charlie Hebdo published but that doesn’t mean an act like this was justified.”

– The face of barbarity –

Between 1,000 and 1,500 people massed outside the European Parliament building in Brussels, where a “Je suis Charlie” sign was hung from a statue.

The French ambassador to Madrid, Jerome Bonnafont, joined a crowd of several hundred people outside the embassy shouting “Free speech, free speech.”

“I came because in the face of barbarity, freedom of expression must prevail,” said Natalia Prieto, a 27-year-old Spanish woman.

Around 150 people, most of them French, stood in silence outside the French embassy on the Piazza Farnese in the heart of Rome.

Around 500 people gathered in both Geneva and Lausanne while in the Swiss capital Bern, 200 people paid homage to the victims, according to local media reports, as Vienna and The Hague saw similar vigils.

And in Stockholm, around 70 people, many of them carrying flowers or candles, stood in silence outside the French embassy.

A 40-year-old woman who gave her name only as Veronique attended the gathering with her children.

“It was important to me to come here and to share my anger and my sorrow,” she said.

The vigils across the continent came as more than 100,000 people gathered across France to pay tribute to the victims of the massacre.

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


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