People join rallies worldwide to honor Paris victims

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 hundreds of thousands of people, including leaders from around the world, were expected to take part in a massive rally, 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:

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SYDNEY

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.”

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TOKYO

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Associated Press journalists Rod McGuirk in Sydney, Kaori Hitomi in Tokyo and Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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