You may not have realized that San Francisco is home to a sizable community of French ex-pats, and the tragic events in Paris yesterday have obviously rippled across their ranks. Hundreds gathered Wednesday night for a vigil outside the French Consulate, many of them holding signs saying "Je Suis Charlie" or "I am Charlie" in solidarity with the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo where the attack took place.
As KTVU reports, "The vigil started in silence but later, a spontaneous chorus of voices sang the French national anthem and shouts of 'Je suis Charlie' erupted into a larger chant that spread through the crowd as people clapped their hands."
Being the food-loving, European-style city that it is with temperate, Mediterranean weather, we have a large French consulate that dates all the way back to the 1850s, when it was said that 8 percent of California's total population, or 28,000 residents at the time, were French. SF is now home to a French-American Chamber of Commerce, and a French American International School, as well as dozens of shops and bistros owned and operated by French-born staff like L'Ardoise and Bisou in the Castro, Baker Street Bistro in the Marina, and several restaurants on Belden Place, which is considered SF's unofficial French Quarter and is right around the corner from the consulate.
Ruben Donze, owner of La Fromagerie in Dogpatch (one of French President Francois Hollande's stops during his SF visit last year) told ABC 7 that many in the local French community had gathered at his shop Wednesday to mourn the event, and he said, "Our thoughts are with all the families of the people who have suffered."
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting posted the photo below, expressing their solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.
As the Center's board chairman Phil Bronstein said, "What's unique about this, is that it's a convergence of the assassination of journalists, something that's been going on for a long time, and contemporary terrorism. And this convergence is a scary convergence, but it doesn't change what we do or what we should do."