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Almost four million turn out for unity rallies across France


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Almost four million turn out for unity rallies across France

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It was a show of solidarity never before seen in France.

Almost four million people have turned out in Paris and other cities for unity marches after the murder of 17 people in three separate terrorist attacks.

Officials say attendance in Paris was more than two million and the figure was at least 3.7 million nationwide.

This breaks the previous record for the largest rally in France: the liberation of Paris after World War Two.

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One woman told euronews: “I came to defend freedom of expression, for the freedom of everyone, so we can avoid lumping different communities together, so we can respect free thought in France, and yes, I am Charlie.”

A man said: “I came out spontaneously today because French people have died, and to defend equality, freedom, fraternity, that we rest secular and choose our own beliefs. Our heart is bleeding.”

Another man said: “I hope it’s not just a short-lived protest. I hope that behind all of this something will happen on a national level, international level, a wake-up call, that’s going to lead to change. Is that dreaming of utopia? I don’t know, we’ll see. But I’d like to believe it.”

Families of the victims also led the march in Paris, alongside dozens of world leaders.

Euronews correspondent Fabien Farge reported: “Paris today really was the capital of the world, the capital of freedom, and it wants to remain that way. The proof was the massive mobilisation on the streets. People came from all walks of life, all ages, for this historic mobilisation. Here this is Place de la Nation, which is also now freedom square and republican square.”

More than 50 world leaders arrived in Paris to join the show of force, which came after similar rallies on Saturday in France and across the globe.

Also on Sunday there was confirmation of another victim of the terror attacks in the French capital that left a total of 20 people dead, including three gunmen killed by police.

The Paris Prosecutor says tests on bullet cartridges found at the site where a jogger was shot and wounded on Wednesday night match the gun found at the scene of a deadly supermarket hostage-taking on Friday.

This new development would indicate that the gunman who shot dead a policewoman and then four hostages at the kosher supermarket also tried to kill a jogger on the same day of the attack at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead.

The more than 50 world leaders at the Paris march included those from Germany, Italy, Poland, Israel, the UK, Ireland, Mali, the UN Secretary General, the US Secretary of State and the Palestinian President.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu joined the line up, reminding French Jews that Israel would be happy to welcome them as immigrants. He said “Israel is also your home”, after the attacks appeared to target the Jewish community.

One notable absence among the leaders was American President Barack Obama. The US sent Attorney General Eric Holder.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said “Europe will win the battle against terrorism.” In more controversial comments the Spanish Interior Minister was quoted as saying that Europe may need to rethink it’s Schengen border-free zone in order to fight the threat of Islamist militants.

The leaders held a minute’s silence.

Security tight

France remains on high alert as reports emerge that sleeper cells have been activated.

In Paris, more than 2000 police and 1000 security forces were deployed along the march routes, including snipers. They were placed along the march routes starting in Place de la Republique and ending at Place de la Nation.

A tribute to the victims

The Paris march was also led by the families of the victims of the attacks.

They arrived at the march via Boulevard Voltaire, the French writer who coined the motto which has been taken up by the #JeSuisCharlie movement: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

In all 17 people were killed in separate incidents which began with the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

Three gunmen were killed by police.

In a touching tribute one young girl at the Paris march held aloft a sign saying: “When I grow up I want to be a journalist, I’m not afraid.”

Others left flowers in memory of the policeman shot dead on Wednesday.

A country united

Rallies in other cities have attracted huge crowds.

Some numbers

  • Paris more than 2 million
  • Lyon more than 300,000
  • Bordeaux at least 100,000
  • Rennes at least 100,000
  • Grenoble 70,000
  • Clermont-Ferrand 50,000
  • Tours 35,000
  • Vienne around 12,000

One person in Lyon tweeted that the crowd was respectful, serene and determined.

Another person taking part in the Lyon march tweeted that it was something they had never seen before, saying it’s an “intense moment”.

Today Paris is the capital of the world

Ahead of the rally the French President said that today Paris was the capital of the world. Scenes of streets packed with people holding similar marches across the globe appear to confirm his message.

British intelligence service MI5 warned Europe that Islamist militants were planning attacks in the West and added that three terror plots have been foiled on British soil in recent weeks.

Stockholm

AFP in Stockholm tweeted that around 2,000 have braved the icy weather to show their support for France.

Brussels

European Commissioners tweeted their presence at the Brussels rally. The EU will be holding a special summit on January 12 on counter terrorism measures.

EU blogger Andy Carling tweeted that the town of famous cartoon Tintin, Brussels has turned out for #JeSuisCharlie.

London

Brits gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Edinburgh

Dublin

Moscow

Madrid

Berlin

Ankara

Rome

Budapest

#ambassade de #France 🇫🇷 #MarcheRepublicaine 🇫🇷 #JeSuisCharlie

A photo posted by Emil Horvath (@emilhrvth) on

Athens

Prague

#JeSuisCharlie #prague

A photo posted by eat this! (@eatthisorg) on

Malta

Beirut

Mumbai

With the contribution of Joanna Gill and Seamus Kearney

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