Charlie Hebdo: Hundreds of Londoners queue to buy satirical magazine following Paris attacks

Among those waiting, opinion was split over the decision to feature an illustration of the Prophet Mohamed on the cover

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The Independent Online

Ducking out of The French Bookshop in Kensington, some tugged at hats and scarves to cover their faces from the media huddle before scuttling off. Others posed proudly for the assembled photographers, holding their bounty aloft.

They had come to buy their copies of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine whose name has been written into history by the murder of its cartoonists, the controversy of its content and the defiance of its new legions of readers proclaiming “Je suis Charlie”. 

Heena Patel, 32, a medic from Paddington, had queued since 4.20am on Friday.

Flicking through the eight-page special edition – penned and printed in the days following the terrorist attack on its Paris office – Ms Patel appeared teary-eyed.

“The idea of that happening in England, to magazines that I love, like Private Eye… it’s horrific,” she said.

Were she and the 200-300 others queuing to enter the shop to pick up one of the limited copies made available in the UK after millions sold out in France, there to show defiance?

“I have my legs, I have my voice,” she replied. “I don’t need a Kalashnikov to scare people. Just my presence frightens you.”

Among those waiting, opinion was split over the decision to feature an illustration of the Prophet Mohamed on the cover. Similar illustrations were taken by the terrorists to justify their attack.

However, the belief in the right of the surviving staff to publish it was unanimous.


Josh Kemp, 19, a London School of Economics student who arrived at 6.50am, said that in buying a copy of Charlie Hebdo he was showing support for its staff’s right “to print anything – even if it offends”.

Standing third in line 22-year-old Moritz Riewoldt had arrived by the last Tube, waiting since 12.20am.

He was here as a matter of principle, he said.  “It was not just about freedom of speech. Real people died and we have to value their lives.”

With the funeral of Charlie Hebdo’s editor Stéphane Charbonnier, known as Charb, having taken place on Thursday, this was a loss that would have been felt particularly in this part of Kensington.

Known as the French Quarter, the streets are dotted with Parisian cafes – La Cigale, Raison D’etre – and the Institut Français stands just around the corner.

Staff at The French Bookshop said they did not know how many copies they had for sale. But opening at 8.15am, they sold their last a little over an hour later.

One man who left empty-handed was owner Robert Zaigue, having insisted his customers came first.  Asked if he feared repercussions, he replied: “If they want to blow the place up, they’ll blow the place up. We’re not going to let them scare us.”

Additional reporting by Jon Stone