I went there feeling angry, “how could anyone shoot dead cartoonists for drawing pictures?” and defiant. The newspaper I work for, a job that pays the bills, had spoken out blaming Charlie Hebdo for a lack of common sense. I wanted to distance myself from that and associate myself with prominent English supporters of the protest such Frank Turner who enthusiastically headed straight there. “That’s the spirit, that will show them.” I confess I was hoping we would be belting out Glory Hallelujah before it was time to head home.
The reality was totally different. The mood was somber. Dignified. No one was shouting. No one was singing. Media interviews were being murmered in odd corners and banners were held aloft in silence. Photographers taking turns to take pictures. This was a sophisticated affair. “Of course, this is French” thought I.
Wrong again. Yes French accents were audible, but so were English accents. I took a picture of one lady who held aloft a bic biro and insisted it was French pen. She spoke very good English. One journalist remarked aloud that she was still trying to find a French person to talk to. The French had set the tempo and the mood but the local support they got was a resounding success.
Most of all the quiet dignity of those gathered could not have made a greater contrast against the noisy destruction of the attackers. More completely than any cartoon, it made them look foolish.