How Europe Expressed Solidarity in the Wake of the Paris Terror Attacks

France, as well as the rest of the world, is shocked and grieving. But citizens in various cities throughout Europe gathered yesterday to express support and organise solidarity protests.

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15 November 2015, 6:00am

Flowers near the Bataclan. Photo by Matthew Leifheit.

On Friday, Paris was struck by a series of terror attacks that killed more than 120 people. The city is still in shock, and French President François Hollande has declared a state of emergency.

People around the world are coming together to express support and organise solidarity protests, so VICE asked correspondents from its offices throughout Europe about how their respective cities and countries are responding to the tragedy.

FRANCE

Following Friday's series of terror attacks in Paris , French President François Hollande has declared a state of emergency . As a result, public protests are forbidden in Paris until November 19. According to French newspaper Le Monde, this is due to the fact that police forces have to ensure the security of the city and can't be distracted from this mission by supervising at protests or gatherings. According to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a minute of silence will be observed on Monday at 11 AM all over the country and flags will be flown at half-staff throughout the day as a tribute to the victims. Several cities have called for silent protests during the afternoon.

Germans demonstrating in solidarity at Pariser Platz, the square directly behind the Brandenburg Gate. Photo by Florian Boillot

GERMANY

More than 2,000 people gathered on Saturday at the French embassy at Pariser Platz, bringing flowers, candles, and posters to express their sympathy. Inside the embassy, politicians such as President Joachim Gauck and chancellor Angela Merkel signed a book of condolences.

Mourners and solidarity demonstrators had been visiting the the plaza behind the Brandenburg Gate throughout the day. But at 4 PM—the beginning of the officially-announced solidarity march—many more started to arrive, including a number of French students. One group of French people held up a poster that read " même pas peur," which roughly translates to "not afraid." Once it became dark, the Brandenburg Gate was illuminated in the colours of the French flag, before people slowly started heading home.

While the vast majority turned up to express their grief and show solidarity with the people of Paris, a few tried to impose their political agenda on the crowds. A man with a typical AfD (Alternative für Deutschland)/Pegida banner that read "Merkel Must Go" was stopped by the police and banned from protesting; a German flag bearing the message "Say Again, Merkel and Gauck, Islam Is Peace?" was left among the flowers; a man held up a banner saying "Islamophobia = Fear of Islam, That's What I Have"; and at around 6:30 PM, seven people from the far-right Identitarian movement showed up, before being surrounded and chased away by anti-fascist activists.

The French flag beamed on to The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. Photo by Christopher Bethell

LONDON

Thousands of French citizens and Londoners gathered in the city centre at Trafalgar Square on Saturday evening under the banner "Don't touch our Paris, don't touch our France, don't touch our freedom." In front of Nelson's Column, under a tarpaulin keeping out the rain, projectors beamed the colours of the tricolour onto the nearby National Gallery.

London, sometimes called "France's sixth largest city," has a strong and vibrant French community, and a number of different vigils had taken place at Trafalgar Square throughout the day. Earlier in the evening, members of British faith groups, including the Christian Muslim Forum and the Muslim Council of Britain, came together holding blue, white, and red flowers and lighting candles on the floor that spelt out "We Are Paris."

By 9 PM a much larger group of predominantly young French nationals had gathered to sing their national anthem in the rain, before observing a minute's silence for the victims. At times the mood was loud, defiant, and almost cheerful. At others it was quiet and somber. Towards the end of the demonstration, hundreds formed a circle around one young man with a violin—some in tears by the time he finished with a loud cry of "Vive la France!"

Danish supporters near the French embassy in Copenhagen

DENMARK

Hundreds congregated at the French embassy in Copenhagen on Saturday to show their support for the people of Paris. The embassy, in the central square of Kongens Nytorv, was surrounded by heavily armed police, and many of the nearby buildings were flying the Danish or French flag at half-staff as a tribute to the victims of Friday's attacks.

People of all ages came to express their sympathy, with several leading politicians—including Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen—visiting the embassy to offer their condolences.

Terrorism is still fresh in Denmark's collective memory; in February, our country came under attack in shootings at both a free speech event and at a Synagogue.

Thirty-year-old journalist Daniel Svarts was at the embassy with his partner and their child to lay flowers. "I'm here to show my support to France and because I think this should be seen as an attack on all of the West," he told VICE. "I think it is important to show that we are standing together and send a signal to the other side."

Through the day, the sea of flowers and notes of sympathy in front of the embassy grew by the minute. People stood outside the building quietly, some hugging or chatting.

Priscilla Bernasol, 30, was in the square with her husband. "You feel so powerless in a situation like this," she said.

A book of condolences outside the French embassy in Bucharest

ROMANIA

In response to the attacks, Romanian authorities increased all security measures around official French institutions. Additional police officers were dispatched to the French embassy in Bucharest, where the national flag was lowered to half-staff, and police announced that the street the building is on would be closed to traffic for an "undetermined period of time."

Outside the embassy, hundreds of Romanians and French nationals lit candles and laid flowers in memory of those who lost their lives in Paris. There was also a book of condolences put out for those who wanted to write messages of condolence and support. Hundreds had already signed the book by noon, with many Romanians writing the French national motto: "Liberte, egalite, fraternite" ("Liberty, Equality, Fraternity").

Solidarity demonstrators in Rome. Photo by Elia Buonora

ITALY

On Saturday morning, social networks were filled with messages of solidarity, while both radio and television programming was interrupted. Newspaper headlines were mostly solemn, with some exceptions—notably the right-wing Libero, whose front page read "Islamic Bastards."

Demonstrations were announced from the north to the south of Italy, and from early in the morning people began leaving flowers and notes at the French embassy in Rome, using slogans like "Je suis Français" and "Aujourd'hui je suis Parisien."

A candlelight vigil took place in the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, where security measures were increased ahead of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (during the day, the hashtags #stopGiubileo/#stopJubilee spread on Twitter, with many voicing their fear of Rome being attacked during the celebrations).

Similar scenes of solidarity took place in Italy's other major cities, including one in Milan in front of the French consulate.

Solidarity demonstrators in Barcelona. Photo by Cristina Pérez

SPAIN

The largest solidarity demonstration in Spain was held at Rambla del Raval, a major avenue in Barcelona. The show of support was attended by at least 500 people and, like the rest of the city, was full of police. Those in attendance held up banners that called for an end to violence and chanted slogans such as "We are Paris" and "Stop bombs."

"What happened yesterday in Paris is a crime against humanity and we reject it completely," Muhammad Iqbal, organiser of the demonstration and a member of the Islamic Center Camino de la Paz (Road to the Peace), told VICE. "It is against us. Killing people is not justifiable in any way. We are victims just as much as those innocent people."

Several representatives of neighbourhood organisations addressed the crowds, as did those who just wanted to express their opinion. "The Qur'an says that if you kill one person you are killing all of humanity," shouted one woman in a hijab.

After half an hour, the meeting ended with a minute of silence, before people began to make their way home. A young Pakistani man working at a grocery store overheard a group talking about the attacks and said, "They do not represent us. They are not Islam. They are dogs from hell."

For more on the Paris Terror Attacks, visit VICE News.

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