People join rallies worldwide to honor Paris victims

  • AP, Paris
  • Updated: Jan 11, 2015 22:26 IST

People gathered in cities around the world on Sunday to honor 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 tens of thousands of people, including more than 40 world leaders, streamed into the heart of the city for a rally of national unity, 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:

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.

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 neighboring Syria.

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

"We are speaking here in the name of the Palestinian people who had suffered for so long from terrorism and in the name of the values that we share with France, the values of liberty, the values of equality, and the values of saving the modern civilization against the criminals who are spreading all across the Arab world and they have attacked the heart of France," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official.

In Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat led a ceremony attended by several hundred people, many of them French Jewish immigrants. Many participants held signs saying "Je Suis Charlie," or "Israel is Charlie," written in Hebrew.

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 cafe last month. The standoff ended 16 hours later when police stormed the cafe 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.

New York
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.

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