Paris shooting: Tens of thousands join rallies across France, in European cities for attack victims

People gathering at the Place Royale in Nantes, France, on Jan 7, 2015, to show their solidarity for the victims of the attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. -- PHOTO: AFP
People gathering at the Place Royale in Nantes, France, on Jan 7, 2015, to show their solidarity for the victims of the attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. -- PHOTO: AFP
People lighting candles during a rally in support of the victims of the attack by gunmen at French satyrical newspaper Charlie Hebdo at the Place de la Republique in Paris, on Jan 7, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People lighting candles during a rally in support of the victims of the attack by gunmen at French satyrical newspaper Charlie Hebdo at the Place de la Republique in Paris, on Jan 7, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People holding placards reading "I am Charlie" and "Reporters without borders" during a gathering in support of the victims of the terrorist attack on French satyrical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in front of French Embassy in Madrid, Spain on Jan 7, 201
People holding placards reading "I am Charlie" and "Reporters without borders" during a gathering in support of the victims of the terrorist attack on French satyrical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in front of French Embassy in Madrid, Spain on Jan 7, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People gatheingr in Brussels, Belgium, on Jan 7, 2015, to show their solidarity for the victims of the attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. -- PHOTO: AFP
People gatheingr in Brussels, Belgium, on Jan 7, 2015, to show their solidarity for the victims of the attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. -- PHOTO: AFP
People gathering to mourn for the victims in front of the Brandenburg Gate (centre, background) near the French embassy at Pariser Platz in Berlin Jan 7, 2015, following a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo i
People gathering to mourn for the victims in front of the Brandenburg Gate (centre, background) near the French embassy at Pariser Platz in Berlin Jan 7, 2015, following a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - More than 100,000 people gathered across France to pay tribute to the victims of Wednesday’s massacre by Islamist gunmen in Paris, as thousands also rallied in other European cities and the “I Am Charlie” hashtag swept the Internet.

With the gunmen still on the loose in Paris after killing 12 people, defiant crowds swarmed into the Place de la Republique, barely a kilometre from the scene of the bloodbath at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly.

At least 35,000 held vigils in Paris, and some 20,000 people turned out in the French cities of Lyon and Toulouse, police said.

Thousands more took to the streets in cities including Bordeaux and Marseille.

There were also rallies in European cities such as Berlin, London and Lausanne.

Many demonstrators wore black stickers with the words “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), a slogan aimed at showing solidarity with the victims of the deadliest attack in France in decades and in support of the paper’s decision to print controversial prophet Mohammed cartoons.

Others waved banners with slogans such as “Press freedom has no price” and “Charb mort libre” (Charb died free), a reference to the newspaper’s slain editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier.

Charbonnier was one of four cartoonists killed in the attack that also left 11 people injured.

The provocative magazine had repeatedly published controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, in part as a campaign to defend freedom of the press, but offending many Muslims who view such depictions as blasphemous.

'NOT AFRAID'

“It’s terrible that these people were murdered. In future, no one will be able to speak his mind. We have to demonstrate in our thousands,” said Beatrice Cano, a woman in her fifties carrying the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Others carried candles or even pencils as a symbol of support for freedom of the press.

The “Je suis Charlie” slogan and hashtag spread quickly on the Internet, with Charlie Hebdo itself replacing its homepage with the phrase printed on a black background. Clicking on a link revealed translations of the phrase into a number of languages, including Arabic.

Many replaced their social media profile pictures with the slogan, including the US embassy in France for a time. The hashtag #jesuischarlie was used hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter.

Others reposted old cartoons from Charlie Hebdo.

Media outlets globally tweeted tributes, including a drawing of the four cartoonists and a quote from Charbonnier: “I prefer to die standing than live on my knees.”

Photos showing protesters holding a sign reading “Not Afraid” were also widely shared online while the slogan “the pen is mightier than the sword” was repeatedly tweeted.