As the manhunt continues for the gunmen responsible for Wednesday morning’s attack in Paris, demonstrators have rallied in support of the victims.
Two shooters stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 and injuring eight more. Four remain in critical condition.
Almost immediately, people took to Twitter to express their support for the 10 slain journalists and two police officers, using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie).
Over 100,000 demonstrators have crowded the streets in cities across the nation, holding up pens, pencils and crayons as symbols. As many as 35,000 have gathered at Place de la République in Paris near where the shootings occurred, while tens of thousands stood in solidarity in Nice, Lyon, Toulouse and Rennes.
Demonstrations have also spread to Berlin and London with several planned for the United States in the coming hours.
President François Hollande addressed the grieving nation on Wednesday night, declaring a day of mourning on Thursday.
“This was an attack on freedom, we must be ourselves, and we must realize our best weapon is unity,” he said. “Nothing must separate us or drive us apart.”
“These men died for their idea of France, that is to say freedom,” Hollande continued. “These are our heroes today.”
“France is a great nation when under pressure. We are stronger than our enemies when we are together,” he added. “We will win. Nothing will make us renounce our determination. Long live the republic. Long live France.”
Declaring that French flags will fly at half-staff for three days, Hollande announced a minute of silence across the nation Thursday at noon.
Paris’s celebrated Cathedral of Notre Dame will toll its bells at noon Thursday to commemorate the victims. “The mass which follows will be conducted with thoughts towards the victims and their families,” the archdiocese said in a statement.
Among the dead were four of France’s best-known cartoonists, including Stéphane Charbonnier, the director of the controversial publication.
Also killed in the shootings were two police officers. One was permanently assigned by authorities to Charbonnier for protection and the second was a Paris all-terrain bike officer identified as “Ahmed,” who was first on the scene in response to emergency calls.
Police are seeking three suspects – two brothers, 34-year-old Said and 32-year-old Cherif Kouachi, as well as another man, Hamyd Mourad, 18, according to reports. It is unclear what role the third man played.
Authorities were able to establish the men’s identities thanks to information found in the getaway car they abandoned near the Porte de Pantin.
The two brothers have a history involving a cell known as la “Filière des Buttes-Chaumont” which was prosecuted in 2008 for transiting jihadist French youths to Iraq.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the horrific attack, saying: “Those who committed this act must be pursued and punished. Our democracy has been attacked and we must defend it without weakness.”