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22 February 2024

Worldwide marches in solidarity with France

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), left, and Gerad Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States, right, speak to reporters at the Newseum before the Unity Rally on January 11, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (AFP)


About a hundred thousand people rallied worldwide in solidarity with France on Sunday, with marchers across Europe and the Middle East chanting "Je suis Charlie" and holding pens in the air.

From Berlin to Washington and Jerusalem to Beirut, crowds waved French flags and sang France's national anthem "La Marseillaise" following the attacks that killed 17 people, most at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

People belonging to all sects took part in the rallies, held as nearly four million people took to the streets in unity marches across France.

In Israel, where four French killed in a Paris supermarket attack will be buried, more than 500 people gathered in Jerusalem in front of a screen reading in French "Jerusalem is Charlie."

"This is an attack on all of us - on the people, on freedom of media and expression," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said. Chief rabbi Shlomo Amar said a prayer for the victims.

Dozens of Palestinians also held a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah, waving Palestinian and French flags and holding up banners reading "Palestine stands with France against terrorism."

Hamas-run Gaza paid tribute to the victims during a candlelit vigil in the tiny coastal enclave.

Across the Atlantic, about 25,000 people marched in a huge rally in Canada's French-speaking city of Montreal, organizers said.

And in the US capital, several thousand were led in a silent march by French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who brandished a sign with the message, in English, "We are Charlie."

"I'm here at the request of Washington's French people, because, like me, they are frustrated to see their country facing such a serious crisis" from so far away, Araud said.

By his side were ambassadors from the European Union, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Ukraine, as well as top US diplomat for European affairs Victoria Nuland and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

"Je suis Charlie! I am Charlie," Lagarde chanted.

"Obviously, we stand here with our French allies at this very very important moment in solidarity against this kind of violence and terrorism, and in support of the values of freedom and free speech that we both embody as nations," Nuland told AFP.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was "deeply moved" by the march and the "displays of global solidarity," his spokesman said.

Europe mourns 'fallen friends'

In Europe, one of the biggest rallies was in Berlin, where 18,000 people marched wearing t-shirts saying "Checkpoint Charlie Hebdo" -- a reference to the Cold War-era Checkpoint Charlie in the once-divided German city.

The march comes days after Germany's new anti-Islamic Pegida movement drew 35,000 people into the streets of Dresden.

In Brussels, Belgian cartoonist Philippe Geluck was among a crowd of 20,000, saying he was marching "in honor of my fallen friends" at Charlie Hebdo.

"I know the Muslim community feels wounded and humiliated by these cartoons, but they were not taking aim at Islam but at fundamentalism," he said.

Gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on the magazine, which printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that infuriated some Muslims. A third gunman killed a policewoman and four people at a Paris kosher supermarket.

London's Trafalgar Square was filled with around 2,000 people raising pencils to the sky and the iconic Tower Bridge was illuminated in the red white and blue of the French flag. Scores of people also rallied in the university city of Oxford.

The British capital experienced its own terror nightmare 10 years ago when suicide bombers blew up three underground trains and a bus, killing 52 people on July 7, 2005.

In Madrid's Puerta de Sol, hundreds descended on the streets with blue, white and red French flags, and sang "La Marseillaise."

Hundreds of Muslims also gathered at Madrid's Atocha station, scene of Spain's worst terror attack, the March 11, 2004 train bombings that saw Al Qaeda-inspired bombers kill 191 people.

Veiled women with young children joined groups of young men at the rally, holding up signs.

Rallies on every continent

Elsewhere in Europe, 12,000 people rallied in Vienna and about 3,000 people turned out in driving snow in Stockholm, while some 2,000 people marched in Dublin.

Luxembourg's Grand Duchess Maria Teresa took the rare public step of joining some 2,000 people. In Italy, about 1,000 people gathered in Rome and the same number in Milan, while about 200 people took part in Lisbon.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people marched through central Istanbul brandishing pens and flowers, ending up on the steps of the French consulate, and a similar rally took place in Ankara.

But earlier in Istanbul, police arrested two passersby who shouted "why are you demonstrating for this magazine which insulted the prophet?"

In Beirut, hundreds of Lebanese and French expats held up "Je suis Charlie" signs and pens.

Symbolically, the protesters gathered at Samir Kassir Square, named after an outspoken French-Lebanese journalist who was murdered in 2005.

One protester carried a poster aimed at expressing solidarity not only with France, but also with the suffering of millions of Syrians, whose country has been ravaged by war since 2011.

Several hundred people sang the Marseillaise and the Argentine national anthem outside France's embassy in Buenos Aires, with signs reading "Everyone United" and "I am Charlie, I am a police officer, I am a Jew."

In Guinea, President Alpha Conde joined a demonstration of several hundred people to sign a condolence book at the French embassy, witnesses said. Five hundred people also rallied in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

Hours before the Paris march, hundreds of people also demonstrated in Sydney and in Tokyo.