Belgians and visitors from afar came together in Europe’s symbolic capital Brussels to express support for Charlie Hebdo’s ‘martyrs for freedom’, the title bestowed on them by the Imam of Drancy in his timely intervention soon after the killings.
In a country rich in political satire and cartooning, the atrocity brought a sometimes emotional response from some in the crowd of around 2,000 people
“Today is a landmark day, my heart is crying, because those people are really brave people and I admire them for what they have done because they knew the risk, they took the risk, and they are soldiers of freedom,” said one man.
In Trafalgar Square in Britain ‘I am Charlie’ signs were to the fore as many in the French expatriate community turned out to join tourists and Londoners.
“The message they tried to convey was never against religion, or against Islam… I mean, they targeted other religions as well. So I think they were trying to show that it’s important to be free and have a laugh about pretty much anything,” said one young man.
Germans know the value of a free press, and what it can mean when you lose it. Berliners gathered to show outrage at the horror in Paris.
“I think this is an awful attack. I hope that journalists and the press will continue their work. I hope the media will stay critical and free. I am really shocked,” was one typical response.
The French embassy in Madrid drew a crowd of Spaniards and others who came to express their solidarity. For one journalist, it was a more than a professional obligation.
“Independently from the isolated and terrible event that has happened today, this is proof of how we have to fight and avoid the terror we are living because of extremisms, no matter of what origin or colour,” he said.
And in New York’s Union Square people gathered in their hundreds to express their feelings of brotherhood with the victims in Paris.