French students living in Portsmouth have been praised for organising a Je Suis Charlie rally in the city.
They called the event to coincide with the huge gathering in Paris yesterday in which an estimated 2,000,000 people took to the streets in a show of solidarity against terrorism.
More than 100 people gathered at Portsmouth’s Guildhall in tribute to the 17 people killed in the Paris terror attacks.
People of all ages and nationalities chanted ‘Je suis Charlie’ on the steps of the Guildhall.
The three words have come to symbolise freedom of speech and expression over the last week.
The demonstrators then marched to the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common, where a one-minute silence was held.
The rally was organised by French students living in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth’s Lib Dem leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, commended them for organising it.
‘It’s important that Portsmouth shows that sort of extremism is terrible and completely unacceptable’ said Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who took part in the gathering.
Among the crowds were mother and daughter Sharon and Adrianne Deakins, from Hilsea.
Her husband was in the Royal Navy and helped in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The 45-year-old said: ‘People like my husband fought for our country so we can live in freedom.
‘What happened in France really hit me and we need to show some solidarity.
‘We are all involved. First it was Sydney, then Paris.
‘We are all affected by these mindless people who want to destroy the freedom we live in.’
Adrianne, 23, said: ‘What happened in France shocked me.
‘I think what happened is wrong.’
Some demonstrators each held a letter to make up the word ‘Amour’ (French for love).
Frankie Kettle, 76, from Southsea, who was born in Paris but has lived here for 43 years, said: ‘It was an attack on my country.
‘If we don’t stand up and be counted, we will be returning to the dark ages. I was so upset I cried – it was monstrous.’
Cedric Hare, 27, from Lyon but living in Southsea, carried artwork with the words ‘Open the window to your heart’.
He said: ‘It’s a peaceful slogan – that’s why I chose it.’
Portsmouth’s rally was mirrored across the country, with crowds gathering in Trafalgar Square, Leeds and Liverpool.
London landmarks were lit in the colours of the French national flag last night. Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery were among the locations lit up.
Across France, an estimated two million people took part in marches.