For the second night in a row, thousands of people descended on Place de la Republique in Paris on Thursday in a firm show of solidarity against the slayings of 12 people.
It started as a somber gathering, with people talking in hushed tones and lighting candles in their own private moment of reflection. But as darkness fell and the crowd swelled, things quickly took on a more raucous atmosphere.
The crowd burst into renditions of the national anthem, the Marseillaise, or chanted repeatedly in French: “Charlie is not dead,” “France is stronger than ever” and “We are not scared.”
People carried signs saying “Je Suis Charlie” -- I am Charlie -- or held pens aloft in memory of the journalists who were slain Wednesday by gunmen at offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Dozens of people climbed on top of the monument in the center of the plaza to wave banners, lead the rallying cries and take in the momentous scene.
Toward the outer edges of the square, small shrines sprang up, each one with of tea lights shaped into a heart, or spelling out the words “peace,” “Charlie” and “liberty.”
The people came from a cross-section of Paris, but many said they felt compelled to be there to stand up against intolerance and fight for freedom of expression. The staff of Charlie Hebdo had long faced threats over cartoons that many Muslims saw as disrespectful of the prophet Muhammad.
“For us students it’s a very important moment in the history of France,” said Anis Narzougui, 17. “We are here for the nation, for all the religions, to show that we are against acts of terrorism.”
For some of the older people in the crowd, the gathering was also about remembering celebrated cartoonists they had admired since childhood.
“It’s like a father or someone in my family died, it’s very personal,” said Nadia Ashkar, 59, fighting back tears.
“They were an institution in France, and now they’re gone. Charlie Hebdo has to live on."
Boyle is a special correspondent.