PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The weather was blistering cold Friday night but that didn’t stop an estimated 150 to 200 people from coming out for a candlelight vigil in Squirrel Hill.
It was a large show of support and solidarity for the victims of France’s worst terrorist attack in more than 50 years, and to condemn terrorist efforts to stifle freedom of the press.
The vigil comes after Wednesday’s bloody massacre at a Paris newspaper office that left a dozen people dead.
The vigil was held outside the home of the honorary council of France to Pittsburgh.
Isabelle Schetley said she was born in France, but has lived in the Pittsburgh area for about 20 years.
“You don’t forget your native country, and I had the feeling I had to be here tonight,” Schetley said.
Gabe Kramer, of Squirrel Hill, held up a sign that read “Pittsburgh and Paris, Together For Freedom and Democracy.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told the gathering he was proud to live in a city, where people can demonstrate in peace.
“The Democracy of France, and the Democracy of the U.S. was found on the ability to freely express [opinions], and we stand together in the Democratic world,” Peduto said.
He said he was sending a letter of support to the mayor of Paris.
Alex Kao, a Mount Lebanon who now lives and works in Paris, was only a few blocks away from where the attacks took place.
He spoke with KDKA by phone earlier.
“The mood is, people are kind of shocked,” he said. “I guess I can give you a pretty good example, the day it happened on the train… people usually on the trains are kind of, they’re kind of rude to each other, they run into each other and they kind of search for a spot, and that night going home on the train, people were polite to each other, a little uneasy.”
He says that everyone has been fixated on the coverage of the attacks, but his life has not been affected personally.
Meanwhile, the two al-Qaida-linked brothers suspected in the massacre came out of their hideaway with guns blazing Friday and were killed in a clash with security forces, French police said. Moments later, another hostage-taker in Paris was killed in a separate clash.
France has been high alert since the attack.
Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the newspaper attack, including the paper’s editor. Charlie Hebdo plans a special edition next week, produced in the offices of another paper.
After the two separate hostage-taking incidents began Friday, city officials scrambled to protect residents and tourists from further attacks, shutting down a famed Jewish neighborhood, putting schools under lockdown and urging residents to stay indoors and remain vigilant.
Authorities around Europe have warned of the threat posed by the return of Western jihadits trained in warfare. France counts at least 1,200 citizens in the war zone in Syria – headed there, returned or dead. Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have threatened France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.
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