German carnival drops Charlie Hebdo-inspired float after Paris attack

Thu Jan 29, 2015 11:03am EST
 
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COLOGNE (Reuters) - A German carnival has dropped plans to build a "Charlie Hebdo" float with a cartoonist forcing a pencil into the barrel of a terrorist's gun, after receiving messages from locals worried about safety if the float went on show.

Jitters about public displays of words or images that might anger some Muslims have risen in Europe since Islamist gunmen attacked the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris on Jan. 7-9, killing 17 people.

Charlie Hebdo had long specialized in ridiculing Islam and other religions and vowed no change in approach after the attack, which prompted marches by millions of people throughout France in tribute to the journal and free expression in general.

Explaining its decision, the carnival committee in Cologne said they wanted to preserve the event's lighthearted mood in the west German city and make sure no one felt afraid -- even though they had been assured by police that displaying the figures would not pose a security risk.

"We want all visitors, locals and participants in Rose Monday's carnival parade to freely experience a joyful carnival without any worries. We don't want a satirical float, which weighs on the freedom and lighthearted mood of carnival," the organizers said in a statement on Thursday.

They added, however, there would have been no shortage of people willing to accompany the float had it gone on show. The Charlie Hebdo-inspired float had been chosen through an Internet vote.

The traditional parade on Rose Monday is the highlight of the carnival. Satirical floats mocking politicians and global events follow a seven-km (4.5-mile) route, with participants hurling sweets and chocolates to crowds of up to 1.2 million.

Cologne, Germany's fourth-largest city in the heart of the traditionally Catholic Rhineland region, has a population of over 1 million including many Muslim inhabitants.

(Reporting by Matthias Inveradi; writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

 
An empty Charlie Hebdo shelf seen in a magazine store in Montreal, January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi