LONDON (AP) — From Berlin to Bangkok, tens of thousands took a stand against living in fear, as rallies defended the freedom of expression and honored the victims of a Paris newspaper attack.
Viewing the Paris killings as a cold-blooded assault on democracy, people from all walks of life — journalists and police officers, politicians and students — turned out in cities around the world Thursday, holding up pens and joining hands in an outpouring of silent solidarity. Many held placards proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie” — “I am Charlie” — a slogan that went viral on social media within hours of Wednesday’s terror attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
Germany’s biggest-selling daily, Bild, filled the top half of its front page with the headline “Cowardly Murderers!” and printed a black back page with the words “Je suis Charlie.”
“The only thing we can do against this is to live fearlessly,” editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann said in an editorial. “Our colleagues in Paris have paid the ultimate price for freedom. We bow before them.”
Peter Neumann, a security expert at King’s College London, said the attack has won widespread attention on the Internet because it reflects an assault on values — unlike other recent terror incidents, such as those at a cafe in Sydney or outside parliament in Ottawa, which were seen as attacks directed at local targets.
Many people are stepping forward to defend their principles because they see their basic rights threatened.
“It has been framed as an attack on a principle, rather than a specific target,” said Neumann, director of the university’s International Center for the Study of Radicalization.
Across Britain, police forces paused for two minutes at 10:30 a.m. Thursday — 24 hours after the shootings — to remember the 12 victims in Paris, who included two French police officers.
“Every single person, other than the people manning the emergency lines, came out to show their support,” said Mike Barton, Chief Constable at Durham Police.
European capitals including Madrid, London and Brussels and cities in the U.S. saw large demonstrations and candlelit vigils late Wednesday. More rallies were held Thursday from Sarajevo to Athens, where some formed a line and held up a letter each spelling out in Greek: “I do not hate, I am not afraid.”
Smaller gatherings took place even further afield, from Delhi in India to the Tunisian capital of Tunis.
In Tunisia, the birthplace of one of the slain cartoonists, Georges Wolinski, dozens paid homage to Charlie Hebdo in a candlelight vigil outside the French ambassador’s residence.