(by Ingrid Melander, Sybille de la Hamaide and Julien Ponthus, Reuters) – World leaders including Muslim and Jewish statesmen linked arms Sunday to lead more than a million French citizens through Paris in an unprecedented march to pay tribute to victims of Islamist militant attacks.
Commentators said the last time crowds of this size filled the streets of the capital was at the Liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944.
President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Turkey, Britain as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories moved off from the central Place de la Republique ahead of a sea of French and other flags.
Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began on Wednesday with a shooting attack on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions.
Giant letters attached to a statue in the square spelt out the word Pourquoi?” (Why?) and small groups sang the “La Marseillaise” national anthem. … French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France is at “war against terrorists, Jihadists, Islamic fundamentalism.”
At least 3.7 million people took part in silent marches throughout the country, the biggest public demonstration ever registered in France. A total of 1.2 million to 1.6 million marched in Paris and a further 2.5 million in other cities, the Interior Ministry said.
The marches mostly proceeded in a respectful silence, reflecting shock over the worst militant Islamist assault on a European city since 57 people were killed in an attack on London’s transport system in 2005.
The attackers, two French-born brothers of Algerian origin, singled out the weekly for its publication of cartoons depicting and ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad. The bloodshed ended on Friday with a hostage-taking at a Jewish deli in which four hostages and the gunman were killed.
Some 2,200 police and soldiers patrolled Paris streets to protect marchers from would-be attackers, with police snipers on rooftops and plain-clothes detectives mingling with the crowd.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were among 44 foreign leaders marching with Hollande.
Merkel walked to Hollande’s left and at his right was President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, a country where France intervened to fight Islamist rebels two years ago to the day. …
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were also present and walked just a few steps from one another.
“In the same way that the civilized world stood today with France against terror, so it must stand with Israel against terror,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony in a Paris synagogue.
After world leaders left the march, Hollande stayed to greet survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attack and their families, while hundreds of thousands of people marched slowly and in near-total silence through Paris streets.
“We’re not going to let a little gang of hoodlums run our lives,” said Fanny Appelbaum, 75, who said she lost two sisters and a brother in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. “Today, we are all one.” …
The attacks have raised difficult questions of free speech, religion and security, and exposed the vulnerability of states to urban attacks.
The head of France’s 550,000-strong Jewish community, Roger Cukierman, said Hollande had promised that Jewish schools and synagogues would have extra protection, by the army if necessary, after the killings. He also called for limits on hate speech and more control on suspected jihadists.
Hours before the march, a video emerged featuring a man resembling the gunman killed in the kosher deli after he murdered four people in the deli and held others hostages for hours. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State insurgent group and urged French Muslims to follow his example.
Two of the gunmen had declared allegiance to al Qaeda in Yemen and a third to the militant Islamic State. All three were killed during the police operations in what local commentators have called “France’s 9/11”, a reference to the September 2001 attacks on U.S. targets by al Qaeda.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that at a meeting in Paris on Sunday European interior ministers had agreed to boost cooperation to thwart further militant attacks.
He called for the creation of a European database of airplane passenger names and said Europe should fight against abusive use of the Internet to spread hate speech. …
(Additional reporting by Andew Callus,; Elizabeth Pineau, Jean-Baptiste Vey, Ori Lewis and Bill Maclean; Writing by Mark John and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Ralph Boulton, Anna Willard and Angus MacSwan)
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NOTE: Before answering the questions, watch the news reports under “Resources” below.
1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)
2. a) How many people took part in marches throughout France?
b) What is significant about this?
3. a) What groups did the gunmen associate with?
b) What did the terrorist who killed four people in a Jewish deli in Paris call on other Muslims to do in a video he made before his attack?
4. a) How many world leaders marched with French President Hollande? – list the world leaders named in the article.
b) Who was noticeably absent?
5. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria was one of the many who noticed President Obama’s absence, and remarked that it was a mistake not to show up and support our “deepest ideological ally.” Zakaria said that it would have sent an important message to have an American face among the wold leaders.
Forbes columnist Stuart Anderson echoed Zakaria’s statements, saying: “By not attending the unity rally in Paris on Sunday, President Obama has missed an opportunity to show leadership, to demonstrate that Americans are as committed to fight against terrorism as anyone in the world. And that America stands with its allies in a worldwide battle…”
a) Under the “Background” below, read the excerpt from a NY Daily News article. Do you agree with these assertions and those of CNN’s Zakaria and Forbe’s Anderson? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.
In an article with the headline “Attorney General Eric Holder, top U.S. officials no-shows at Paris unity rally” the New York Daily News reported on Sunday:
More than 40 European leaders and almost every French official turned out for the massive unity rally in Paris Sunday – but there was no sign of the U.S.
Neither President Obama or Vice President Biden made the trip to Paris, although dozens of other world leaders and officials put ceremony aside and jostled for space amid the crowds in a stirring show of support against terrorism.
The U.S. did send Attorney General Eric Holder to attend a pre-march terrorism summit convened by French President Francois Hollande. Holder, 63, joined with Hollande in condemning the recent Paris attacks in the strongest possible terms and said the U.S. will hold another terrorism summit in D.C. in February. But his support apparently stopped there — because he wasn’t seen at the emotional “Je Suis Charlie” rally afterward that attracted 1.3 million. Across France, nearly 4 million people turned out in similar demonstrations.
As chanting spectators filled the Place de la Republique, the only U.S. dignitary present was the U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley. “Attorney General Holder – a Cabinet level official – is representing the United States at the security meetings in Paris today. He is joined by the DHS Deputy Secretary (Alejandro) Mayorkas. The United States is represented at the march by Ambassador Hartley,” a senior Obama administration official said.
The lack of U.S. leadership was glaringly apparent as Hollande linked arms with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, and dozens of other world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But an administration official said Obama had made his support known in other ways. “As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S. – don’t forget several public statements from the President, his call to Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy,” the official said.
It’s not clear why America’s President didn’t attend. Obama’s public schedule was empty Sunday, as was that of Vice President Joe Biden, one of the president’s most frequent surrogates.
Secretary of State John Kerry – a natural stand-in given his love of all things French and fluency in the language – was in India on Sunday, meeting with the Prime Minister to set the stage for President Obama’s visit there in a few weeks.
Sunday’s unity rally was the largest ever held in Paris, officials said. Similar events were held across Europe, a call for peace after three days of terror in France that killed 17 innocent victims.
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