Show of solidarity at Charlie Hebdo rally in Stamford
People carried placards and held pens in the air in Stamford to show solidarity with those murdered by terrorists in France and support the right to freedom of speech.
About 100 people gathered silently at the Queen Eleanor Cross at 2pm on Saturday afternoon. Some held signs bearing the slogan Je Suis Charlie, or I Am Charlie, to show support for the journalists of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo who were killed by masked gunmen in Paris on Wednesday last week. Others held their pens in the air as a symbol of freedom of speech and the press.
The meeting was organised by Nicolas Bertrand, of Stamford French Group. Nicolas, 38, lives in Ketton but has family in Paris.
“It was emotional but there was also a feeling of happiness,” he said. “There were children there holding the signs and we felt quite positive.”
The meeting mirrored similar events across the world, the biggest of which took place in Paris yesterday (Sunday) when about 3.7m people marched through the city.
Nicolas said: “On the one hand we knew it was going to be very low-key compared to what happened in Paris. But we were there to show that we were offering support.”
Organisers chose to meet in Sheepmarket in part because of how close it is to the old offices of the Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Britain’s oldest continuously-published newspaper.
Nicolas said: “We wanted to make a link with one of the oldest newspapers and freedom of expression.”
Like many French people living in Britain, Nicolas’ thoughts were with his family in Paris as news broke last week.
“My family have been going through a really tough time,” he said. “It was a bit of a shock. But there was also the element of keeping living and doing day-to-day things.
“My family felt the stress but they keep living. And the demonstration on Sunday really lifted the mood. It was a show of unity. From rock bottom on Thursday when people were on the loose it completely rebounded into a positive feeling.”