More than 15,000 students, journalists and sympathisers congregated in the Place de la Republique in Paris on Wednesday evening, many holding up pens in solidarity with the writers and cartoonists slain in the newspaper attack. Similar gatherings were held in Toulouse and Lyon, while in London hundreds assembled in Trafalgar Square for a silent vigil. Demonstrations were also held in Germany and Spain.
Three gunmen targeted the newspaper’s headquarters on Wednesday, killing 12, including 10 journalists. The gunmen, who were filmed fleeing the scene, remain at large, though a huge manhunt is underway by French authorities. World leaders were quick to condemn the attack, while badges proclaiming "Je suis Charlie" were posted online and across social media.
Witnesses at the magazine headquarters described a scene of carnage, with bullet holes and smashed windows. Survivor and Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Corinne "Coco" Rey was quoted by French newspaper L'Humanite as saying: "I had gone to collect my daughter from day care and as I arrived in front of the door of the paper's building two hooded and armed men threatened us. They wanted to go inside, to go upstairs. I entered the code. They fired on Wolinski, Cabu ... it lasted five minutes ... I sheltered under a desk... They spoke perfect French... claimed to be from al Qaida."
Gilles Boulanger, who works in the same building, likened the scene to a war zone. "A neighbour called to warn me that there were armed men in the building and that we had to shut all the doors," he said. "And several minutes later there were several shots heard in the building from automatic weapons firing in all directions. So then we looked out of the window and saw the shooting was on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, with the police. It was really upsetting. You'd think it was a war zone."