Paris | Millions marched against terrorism in the largest protests France has ever seen, led by world leaders in Paris uniting in tribute to the victims of Islamist attacks as the crowd cried Not Afraid. The interior ministry said nearly four million people took to the streets across the country yesterday, with some estimates putting the number in Paris alone at 1.6 million.
At the head of a vast and colourful procession in the capital, President Francois Hollande linked arms with world leaders, including the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president, in an historic display of unity. A sea of humanity flowed through the streets to mourn the victims of three days of terror that began with a slaughter at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday and ended with 17 dead.
The crowd brandished banners saying I’m French and I’m not scared and, in tribute to the murdered cartoonists, Make fun, not war and Ink should flow, not blood. Emotions ran high in the grieving City of Light, with many people in tears as they came together under the banner of freedom of speech after France’s worst terrorist bloodbath in half a century. Isabelle Dahmani, a French Christian married to a Muslim, Mohamed, brought the couple’s three young children to show them there is nothing to fear.
Their nineyearold daughter had burst into tears as she watched TV pictures of heavily armed Islamist brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi attacking the magazine’s offices, Isabelle said, recalling she had asked if the bad men are coming to our house? The victims’ mourning families played a prominent role in the march, alongside representatives from around 50 countries. In an emotional scene, Charlie Hebdo columnist Patrick Pelloux fell sobbing into the arms of Hollande.
With so many world leaders present, security in the still jittery capital was tight, with police snipers stationed on rooftops and plainclothes officers among the crowd. Today, Paris is the capital of the world, Hollande said. The entire country will rise up. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out in other French cities including Bordeaux and Lyon and marches were held in Berlin, Brussels, Istanbul and Madrid and in US and Canadian cities as well.
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