It took only 20 minutes, but the point of a silent march around the 7-acre duck pond at Freedom Park on Friday night was clear: Although we are an ocean away, we are with you.
Nearly 100 Charlotte residents held candles and pencils as they marched to express solidarity with France and the families of the victims of the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris this week.
“Francais des Etats-Unis; Je Suis Charlie,” read the 8 1/2-by-11-inch poster cards each marcher held.
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“French of the United States; I am Charlie.”
The pencils symbolized the tools of the trade used by the cartoonists who were among those killed in the attack.
“Since we’re so far away, this is the only way to express our solidarity,” Hopewell High School French teacher Fabrice Fresse said.
Fresse helped organize the march with Laure Dasse, who works for the French American Chamber of Commerce of the Carolinas.
Dasse said she was at the park to show support for freedom of speech and the victims and their families.
Looking at the crowd, she said, “It’s nice to see people take the time to pay tribute to the victims of the attack. It’s about freedom of speech and to protect that right.”
Like many of the marchers, Fresse and Dasse are from France.
Others lived or worked in France. Marcher Ashley Anderson, who lived in Paris for 13 months, brought her son, Charlie Mattei, 6, and daughter, Kate Mattei, 9, to the march.
“There’s such a strong connection between our countries,” Anderson said as she held U.S. and French flags. The family plans to visit France next week so her children can see the friends they made.
Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said he, too, came to the march to show support for the victims. He said, however, that he fears retribution in France on innocent Muslims, which is why he refused to march with one of the Je Suis Charlie poster cards. “Je Suis Muslim,” he wrote on the back of one of the poster cards, holding up that saying instead.
At the end of the March, Fresse and Dasse came up to him separately and thanked him for attending.