French Philadelphians rally in support of their homeland [photos]

“He drew first” read a cartoon in the hands of Olivier de St Martin as he stood at Love Park, together with other French Philadelphians, in support of the events in Paris this week.

It works better in English then in French admitted Olivier, a native from the same area where the attackers had been seized and killed earlier  Thursday. He and his wife were among hundreds who took part in a supporting rally held at the foot of the LOVE statue in Center City.

Like many in attendance, Barbara Edelstein and Liz Mednick held pencils, a universal symbol of expression, in solidarity with the people of France who lost their lives.

“I feel like they took the oxygen away from us,” said artist La Fille au Tablier (“the girl in the apron”) as she held up a handwritten sign reading “Je Suis Charlie.”

“We should all stand up for free speech, here and all over the world,” said Laurent Bass, a native of Philadelphia. “I think we are lucky that it is written into our Constitution and therefore we should stand up for the world’s free speech.” 

Jeff Smith, of Philadelphia, said he heard NPR’s Paris correspondent describe the magazine as stupid. But thought that should not be a reason for what happened. He had a hard time believing that someone would walk into an office and kill people for making cartoons.

Not everyone seemed to rally for the same cause.

Just as the rally was set to begin, three unidentified men, wearing ski masks, rolled up on bicycles, circling the statue and pulling wheelies. Two of the bikers rode past the lined up cameras and pointed the index finger of their left hands to the sky — the same gesture made by one of the attackers in Paris the moment they fled the scene.

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