30,000 take part in Copenhagen memorial service

Tens of thousands of Danes attend torch-lit gathering to honour the two victims of the shootings

Over 30,000 people flooded the streets of Østerbro, Copenhagen last night in commemoration of the two fallen victims from this weekend's terror attack. Huddled together in freezing temperatures at Gunnar Nu Hansens Plads, people gathered with flowers and candles to pay their respects and listen to the speeches of the evening.

The prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was first to speak, inviting the public to join her in a minute's silence for the two victims, Finn Nørgaard and Dan Uzan. 

The chairman of the Police Federation and the president of the Jewish Association also spoke, thanking Denmark for the overwhelming support they had received in the days following the attack.

In all of the speeches, one message was remarkably clear: 'Denmark must stand firm on its democratic values. We must not let this act of terrorism affect us.'

"We have now experienced the fear that terrorism seeks to spread," said Thorning-Schmidt, who called for national unity. "We must remain resolute at  upholding our values and protecting our freedom."

After the service, we took to the streets of Østerbro to get a sense of how the public are feeling about the shocking events of the weekend and how Denmark can move forward from here.

Johan, student, 15

Do you think Denmark is open to other religions and cultures?

Generally yes. There are always going to be a few close-minded people in the mix, but mostly I would say everyone is pretty open. Denmark is becoming more and more multicultural, so I think we're very used to other cultures.

Has the fear of the Copenhagen shootings combined with the recent attacks in Paris caused an increase in racism or anti-Muslim sentiment amongst Danes?

Johan: No, I don’t think so. I hope not. There are definitely a lot of people who like to generalise Muslims and paint them all with one brush. But that just comes down to ignorance. I think most people recognise that this wasn't the fault of a particular religion or culture. It was just a crazy guy with a gun. 

Photo: Daniela De Lorenzo

Trine & Jesper, graphic designers, 35 & 40:

What is your opinion of the Mohammed drawings? Should the media continue to publish them?

Jesper: Originally, those drawings were published because they had a purpose – to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of religion. We strongly believe in press freedom, but perhaps it’s easier if these drawings do not continue to be circulated if this will be the outcome.

In your opinion, is Denmark generally free from racism? What do you think recent events will do to change that?

Trine: I think that the term 'racist' is thrown around far too flippantly. It is such a strong and hateful word, and in reality, I think only very few people would identify themselves as 'racist' towards a particular culture. In my opinion, the media should stop using the word to demonstrate a point.

How should Denmark move forward from here?

Trine: I studied with one of the victims of this shooting, and that makes the whole situation feel a lot more real. It is harder to forgive and forget when you know someone involved. It's a really awful situation for the country, but I think Denmark should do exactly what we are good at and what we are known for – sticking together and helping each other in a time of need. This is not going to change how we are as a country. 

Photo: Pia Marsh


Joachim, police officer, 34:

Do you think Denmark is open to other religions and cultures?

Of course, generally I think so. But I think that in every country and every culture there is always a partial fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, I think  there will always be some barriers that affect how we view and understand other cultures that seem foreign to us. Education certainly plays a huge role in changing this.

Has the fear of the Copenhagen shootings combined with the recent attacks in Paris caused an increase in racism or anti-Muslim sentiment amongst Danes?

Joachim (pictured below): I think, if anything, it may temporarily make people feel a little scared or uneasy. But I think it would take a lot more than one man with a gun to change Denmark's democratic values.

How should Denmark move forward from here?

Exactly how we already are. If you look around, you see people from all cultures and backgrounds – all here to pay their respects for the two victims. There is so much compassion – it really feels like everyone is looking out for one another. 

Photo: Pia Marsh


Jørgen, 61

You're carrying a sign that reads "Je suis désolé" (see below). What does this mean?

It's just that everyone today is saying 'Je suis Charlie' all the time. Well, I'm not Charlie! I'm just sorry!

Photo: Daniela De Lorenzo