In Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and other French cities, demonstrations for freedom of expression took place this afternoon, with an estimated total of tens of thousands of people on the move. The meetings were a tribute to the teacher Samuel Paty. He was beheaded by an extremist Muslim on Friday, because he had shown Mohammed cartoons during a lesson.
The Place de la République, among others, was full of people this afternoon:
In Paris, politicians and administrators have also joined the demonstration. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told journalists: “We will succeed in fighting the enemies of democracy, but only if we are united. We must show that we are not afraid of the enemies of the republic.”
Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Prime Minister Jean Castex were also at the demonstration in the Place de la République, where loud applause rose from the crowd around 3 p.m. A minute of silence was later observed. “We are not afraid,” said the French prime minister Twitter. “You don’t divide us. We are France.”
Applause was also heard in other French cities as a tribute to the murdered teacher.
In Toulouse, protesters then sang the Marseillaise, the French national anthem:
Some protesters carried signs with texts such as ‘Je Suis Prof’ and ‘Je Suis Samuel’, references to the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’. It was used in 2015 as a symbol for freedom of the press and freedom of speech, after the attack on the editorial staff of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. That magazine regularly featured cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
Charlie Hebdo is supporting today’s demonstrations, as are trade unions and political leaders. President Macron’s office announced yesterday that Paty will receive a national tribute at a later date. According to French media, that will take place on Wednesday, the location is still unknown.
Swipe through the photos to see demonstrations all over France:
Tonight there is a special council of ministers in Paris, says correspondent Frank Renout. “The ministers then discuss whether they should take additional measures because of Friday’s act of terrorism.” Something has already leaked, he says: the French government wants to expel more than 200 Muslim extremists from the country. “It mainly concerns people who are already in jail.”
According to the correspondent, there were a striking number of teachers in Paris today. “A lot of people say they never thought something so bad would happen to a teacher,” he says.
Yesterday, at Paty’s school, students and their parents gathered to remember the teacher:
The attacker, an 18-year-old Chechen born in Moscow, was shot dead by police shortly after the murder. An eleventh suspect was arrested last night in the investigation into the attack. According to the French news channel BFMTV, it is a friend of the perpetrator.
Among those arrested are the Chechen’s parents, grandfather and younger brother, who had received a French residence permit in March.
A photo of Paty was found on his phone and also a statement claiming the attack. Immediately after the beheading, he posted a photo with Paty’s head on Twitter saying, “I killed one of the hellhounds who dared to humiliate Mohammed.”