Tens of thousands in Copenhagen vigil for shooting victims
Copenhagen, Feb 17: Tens of thousands of Danes have gathered for a torchlit vigil in Copenhagen to commemorate the victims of two shootings that shocked the nation and heightened fears of a new surge in anti-Semitic violence.
Stunned citizens in what is usually one of the world's most peaceful countries flocked to Monday's rally in a square near the cultural centre where the first attack took place.
Many held flaming torches aloft, illuminating the chilly winter night. A police spokesman estimated that some 30,000 people had turned out to pay tribute to the two victims. The first, 55-year-old filmmaker Finn Norgaard, was killed when a gunman opened fire during a debate on free speech on Saturday.
The same attacker then targeted the city's main synagogue, killing 37-year-old Dan Uzan. "Tonight I want to tell all Danish Jews: you are not alone. An attack on the Jews of Denmark is an attack on Denmark, on all of us," Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told the crowd at the vigil.
30,000 people had turned out to pay tribute to the two victims
Faced with the spectacle of European Jews being again targeted by extremists, just over a month after similar attacks in Paris, governments were scrambling to reassure their Jewish communities. Thorning-Schmidt said Danes had come together to "insist on living free and safe lives in a democratic country."
"When others try to scare us and tear us apart, our response is always a strong community," she declared. US President Barack Obama expressed solidarity with Denmark in a phone call with Thorning-Schmidt on Monday.
The two leaders "agreed on the need to work together to confront attacks on freedom of expression as well as against anti-Semitic violence," the White House said in a statement.