Over three hundred people attended a vigil in Auckland’s Aotea Square for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre today.
Twelve people were killed when French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris was stormed by three gunmen on January 7.
The attack has been attributed to Muslim extremists incensed by the depiction of Mohammed in cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo.
The vigil was organised via Facebook by French expat Elise Fournier. The event mirrored vigils held around the world in response to the terrorist attack.
The vigils have become associated with the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), a twitter hashtag that has been trending around the world since the attack.
The crowd was mostly French expatriates for whom the killings had struck a powerful chord and they felt compelled to find a way of expressing their grief as a community.
“The French community are bound together which is marvellous to see. Every time like this happens all French reunite anywhere in the world and have a minute of silence,” said Alexander Ingham, a filmmaker who has lived in New Zealand and was part of the group organising the vigil.
Many people brought posters of controversial cartoons with them as an act of solidarity and to protest in the name of free speech.
French expat Jack, who has lived in New Zealand for 30 years and described himself as “a Kiwi born in France”, said he felt a profound sense of “sadness and anger that people should be killed for their ideas”.
Another man said he was there “for freedom of speech and unity” and that the attack was “a crime against humanity”.
There was minimal police presence at Aotea Square watching over proceedings, as there was a concern that there could be trouble.
“The expectation is a very peaceful rally, we have just come to see if any other opposing sort of trouble might turn up. We are here to make sure everything is good and safe and calm,” said Senior Sargent Matt Rodgers.
The vigil proceeded without incident.
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