9 Jan 2015

NZ vigils for Paris victims

7:32 pm on 9 January 2015

Hundreds of people have gathered in Auckland to mourn the deaths of 12 employees at Paris based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and show their support for free speech.

About 400 people attended the vigil at Aotea Square in Auckland.

About 400 people attended the vigil at Aotea Square in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Twelve people died in the gun attack at the Charlie Hebdo magazine, and a policewoman was shot and killed just a day later.

A number of vigils have been held around New Zealand since the shooting took place and in the latest around 400 people, most bearing signs, and some holding aloft pens and pencils, gathered at Aotea Square, singing the French national anthem.

note saying je suis charlie, ceci est notre arme

Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

One of the organisers, Elise Fournier, said she wanted French people in New Zealand to be able to come together to share their shock and sadness, but also to show solidarity and support for free speech.

"When you go to work, everyone is smiling, so you feel not normal - I was really shocked actually, really sad as well...for the journalists and for the country."

Ms Fournier said it was important to help set up the Auckland event.

"Sometimes people don't know what is happening in other countries, so for me it was an important thing to share, and let people know, and be together with other French people."

Ms Fournier said she encouraged people to attend with drawings, flags, and flowers to peacefully defend the freedom of speech, and to remember the victims of the attack.

A number of speeches were made at the Aotea Square vigil.

One former French journalist told the crowd that the journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo used the smartest of weapons - humour and derision.

But the attackers had no acceptable message, only murder, terror, hate and anger.

The hundreds gathered were told that fear was not an option.

Tributes held in Wellington and Christchurch

Tributes were held in Wellington and Christchurch last night.

Sylvain Jacob, Jérôme Leveneur and Pauline Calloch

Sylvain Jacob, Jérôme Leveneur and Pauline Calloch Photo: RNZ / Ruth Hill

People at the vigils have all expressed their shock and horror.

More on this story

About 200 people gathered at the Wellington vigil to show their support for the families who lost loved ones, and to take a stand against terrorism.

Laurent Loudeac, a chef from France who had lived in New Zealand for 20 years, said he was surprised it had happened, because the magazine made jokes about everyone, from the Pope to politicians.

"We don't actually agree with the way terrorists do their stuff...it's not on," he said.

"You don't kill people for freedom of speech, it's not on."

Organiser Pascal Line and Laurent Loudeac light candles.

Organiser Pascal Line and Laurent Loudeac light candles. Photo: RNZ / Ruth Hill

Pauline Calloch, also at the Wellington vigil, said she grew up with the magazine, and the cartoonist was a part of her life in Paris.

"You don't have to agree with them, at least they were saying what they thought - and I mean quite often it might go a bit too far, but at the end of the day, they were just expressing themselves."

Wellington's mayor said New Zealand's capital stands in solidarity with Paris at the vigil.

Celia Wade-Brown said both cities have multicultural populations and need to stand firm in their beliefs.

French woman Adeline Even, who works as an au pair in Woolston, Christchurch, said she got the news about midnight on Wednesday, and could not sleep afterwards.

Ms Even organised an event in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens last night, and encouraged people to bring posters, candles, or simply themselves.

"I couldn't stay doing nothing, so it was important for me to show that we are united, if we are in France or abroad, if we are white, black, Christian or Muslim - today I just want to say we are all Charlie."

French ambassador Laurent Contini (left) talks with attendee at the Wellington vigil.

French ambassador Laurent Contini (left) talks with attendee at the Wellington vigil. Photo: RNZ / Ruth Hill

Ms Even said she had been in New Zealand for two months, and it was unsettling having something like this happen when she was so far from home.

"I really feel powerless and sad, and even if I have got the support of my host family and Kiwi friends, I feel a bit alone - so that's a reason why I want to meet other French people."

About 200 people attended the vigil in Wellington.

About 200 people attended the vigil in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Ruth Hill

The Federation of Islamic Associations said Muslim communities in New Zealand completely condemned the killings.

Its president, Anwar Ghani, said freedom of speech must not be used to justify hate-speech.

But he said journalists and public figures must show judgement and avoid exacerbating tensions.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs