Thu | Dec 8, 2016

March for Charlie Hebdo

Published:Monday | January 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Paris yesterday in a massive show of unity and defiance in the face of terrorism that killed 17 people in France's bleakest moment in half a century.

Their arms linked, more than 40 world leaders headed the somber procession, setting aside their differences for a manifestation that French President Fran├žois Hollande said turned the city into "the capital of the world".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood near Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also marched.

The deadly attacks on a satirical newspaper, kosher market and police marked a turning point for France that some compared to September 11. In the weeks and months ahead, the cruelty will test how attached the French - an estimated five million of whom are Muslims - really are to their liberties and to each other.

"Our entire country will rise up toward something better," Hollande said yesterday.

The aftermath of the attacks remained raw, with video emerging of one of the gunmen killed during police raids pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group and detailing how the attacks were going to unfold. Also, a new shooting was linked to that gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed Friday along with the brothers behind a massacre at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in nearly simultaneous raids by security forces.

Rallies were planned throughout France and major cities around the world, including London, Madrid and New York - all attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists - as well as Cairo, Sydney, Stockholm, Tokyo and elsewhere.

Children, grandparents, Muslims, Jews, Christians, workers, bosses - all joined together in streets and plazas thronged with crowds throughout eastern Paris.

togetherness

On Paris' Republic Square, deafening applause rang out as the world leaders walked past, amid tight security and an atmosphere of togetherness amid adversity. Families of the victims, holding each other for support, marched in the front along with the leaders, along with journalists working for newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the target of the attack that started three days of terror. Several wept openly.

"I Am Charlie," read legions of posters and banners. Many waved editorial cartoons, and the French tricolor and other national flags.

The leaders marched down Voltaire Boulevard - named after the Enlightenment-era figure who symbolises France's attachment to freedom of expression. One marcher bore a banner with his famed pledge: "I do not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it."

"It's important to be here for freedom for tolerance and for all the victims. It's sad we had to get this point for people to react against intolerance racism and fascism," said Caroline Van Ruymbeke, 32.

The three days of terrorism began last Wednesday when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the newsroom of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen said it directed the attack by the masked gunmen to avenge the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, a frequent target of the weekly's satire. Charlie Hebdo assailed Christianity, Judaism as well as officialdom of all stripes with its brand of sometimes crude satire that sought to put a thumb in the eye of authority and convention.