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French PM Manuel Valls seeks to reassure Jewish community

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French PM Manuel Valls seeks to reassure Jewish community



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About three thousand people gathered on Saturday evening outside the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, where four shoppers were murdered the day before by a gunman who took several people hostage – before he was killed by police who stormed the building.

Members of the French Jewish community were joined by prominent Muslims and by government ministers – led by the prime minister.

“Let’s not be afraid to be a journalist. Let’s not be afraid to be a policeman. Let’s not be afraid to be a Jew. Let’s not be afraid to be a citizen. Today we’re all Charlie,” Manuel Valls told the assembled crowd.

One resident said the area
around the Porte de Vincennes was home to several communities – Arab, black, Jewish – who get on well.

The victims of Friday’s hostage-taking have been identified as supermarket worker Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, a teacher and father-of-three; 21-year-old student Yoav Hattab from Tunisia; and François-Michel Saada, a retired company executive.

As the names of some were displayed at the rally, the rise in anti-semitism in France was on people’s minds.

“Personally I feel in some danger at times, I don’t feel safe. I’m afraid to put a skullcap on and to show my star of David,” said one young man, Elie Rues.

“Yesterday I was at the Jewish school just behind here, with 200 children. They were scared to death, in a real state. My thoughts are with them now. I tell myself that we got through it, I don’t really know how, but in any case, we’re here to say that we came through it and we always will,” said another Paris resident, Sarah Funto.

Saturday night saw more people take to the streets around the country, in towns such as Toulon in the south, and Royan in the west.

Earlier in the day hundreds of thousands marched in several French towns and cities ahead of today’s main event in Paris.

Their cause is the same: to show solidarity with the victims of last week’s terror attacks – and defend freedom of expression in the face of the murderous assault on the headquarters of the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo.

Saturday also saw separate appeals from different bereaved families for people not to mix up the attacks with Islam.

Along with other members of his family, Malek Merabet paid tribute to his brother – policeman Ahmed Merabet, 42, gunned down outside Charlie Hebdo’s building.

“I’m talking to all the racists, islamophobes and anti-semites: stop mixing up the issues, starting wars, burning mosques or synagogues,” he said, appealing also for people not to confuse “extremists with Muslims”.

He also criticised media organisations for broadcasting footage of his brother’s killing.

“How did you dare take that video and broadcast it?” he asked. “I heard his voice, I recognised it, I saw him being gunned down and I continue to hear it every day.”

Some hours later the mother and sisters of Amedy Coulibaly – responsible for the attack on the Jewish supermarket – launched a similar appeal.

The women offered their condolences to the families of all the week’s victims.

“We condemn these acts. We absolutely do not share these extreme ideas. We hope that there will be no confusion between these odious acts and the Muslim religion,” they said in a statement.


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