A group of Culver City residents, civic leaders and others in mourning gathered on Thursday, Jan. 8 outside of the Culver Hotel to host a vigil in memory of the victims of the massacre in Paris’ Charlie Hebdo.
Terrorist attacked the offices of the satirical publication on Jan. 7 resulting in the death of 10 journalists and two police officers.
“It was one of those moments where I had emotions that had to be dealt with,” Johna Miller, who organized the vigil, said. “I think, for me, the attack on the offices of Charlie Hedbo was the final straw in the crescendo of violence against our way of life. Also, the fact that it was France, for me, it was an attack on a family member.
For Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, the attack did hit close to home as her husband is French and her children were born in France as well.
“It makes me mad and incredibly sad. How is it that any human being could justify that type of action?,” Sahli-Wells said. “This is not Islam that is calling for this type of violence. These are crazy extremists that have perverted religion for a very dubious cause and the cause is hatred; the cause is not religion. I do not accept that. You can’t believe in the Quran and commit these crimes.”
The group that gathered formed a circle and shared a moment of silence as they held lights and signs reading “Nous Sommes Charlie” or “We Are Charlie” in French.
“Perhaps it is human nature, like circling the wagons, we were protecting each other from what had happened,” Miller said. “To hold our lights in the darkness, to bring symbols, such as the signs, and pens/pencils, it was all a way to show support and solidarity to the France, to expend our sadness and grief and to know we are not alone and that we must stick together if we are to stand up to this.”
Miller was grateful at the willingness of Mayor Sahli-Wells to participate and the hospitality of the Culver Hotel’s General Manager Seth Horowitz in allowing the group to gather outside of the iconic building. She was just as touched by the response of people who came out to support and be part of the vigil.
“The French have been along side of this grand American journey since the inception,” Miller said. “Their ideas of freedom, free-speech not to mention language, fashion and food have influenced America greatly…and to have something that most of us hold scared, free-speech, literally attacked were all reasons that pushed me to reach out to others and get a vigil together.”
Sahli-Wells emphasized the need for people to unite when tragedies like the one in Paris take place.
“It is important not to be intimidated; it is important not to be silenced and it is important to not let them win by being afraid,” Sahli-Wells said. “So the signs in Paris reading ‘Not Afraid’ mean a lot. Right now we need to protect that free speech more than ever. Unfortunately in many countries journalists are being killed like south of our border and in the Middle East: it is a dangerous occupation. We just didn’t think it was a dangerous occupation in a place like Paris.”