‘Today, Paris is Capital of the World’: France Displays Defiance With Huge RallyPosted: January 11, 2015 | |
Historic: World Leaders Gather With Crowd of Millions to Show Solidarity After Terror Attacks
PARIS— Stacy Meichtry reports: World leaders marched arm-in-arm with a massive crowd Sunday in defiance of terrorist attacks that ripped through the French capital in the past week.
Hundreds of thousands of people from across France and elsewhere descended on Paris for a rally that drew a host of strange bedfellows from the world stage.
The families and friends of the 17 people killed in the spree of violence walked solemnly at the head of the march. In their wake came a spectrum of leaders, ranging from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron .
The rally was one of the city’s biggest gatherings in decades, and French officials adopted “exceptional” measures to manage the crowd and guarantee the security of foreign leaders. Large swaths of the city were sealed off from traffic and subway lines were shut down.
For a city that had become a backdrop of gunfire and bloodshed in recent days, the rally marked Paris’s return as a stage for symbolic gestures of peace. Ms. Merkel locked arms with Mr. Abbas, and Mr. Netanyahu shook hands with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Thousands Gather in Paris
“Today, Paris is the capital of the world. The whole country will stand up.”
— French President François Hollande
France and the rest of Europe have been on high alert since Wednesday, when brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi allegedly went on a deadly rampage, stalking through the newsroom of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with AK-47s. The violence continued when a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, allegedly killed a police woman on Thursday and four hostages at a kosher grocery store on Friday.
The Kouachi brothers and Mr. Coulibaly were killed by police in separate and simultaneous raids that brought the crisis to a dramatic climax.
The violence traumatized France, puncturing public confidence in the country’s formidable security forces and sowing tensions in a land that is home to one of Europe’s biggest Muslim populations.
On the sidelines of Sunday’s rally, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve convened a meeting of senior security officials from both sides of the Atlantic, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder , to address terrorist threats in the wake of the attacks.
Mr. Cazeneuve said the group of officials agreed to work together to combat threats from foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq and to tighten border controls.
The government mobilized thousands of police and paramilitary forces to oversee the rally. Special units, officials said, were dedicated to protecting dignitaries and leaders.
Efforts to control the crowd, however, were at times overwhelmed by the sheer size of the gathering.
Crowds began flocking to the city center in the early hours of Sunday amid bright sunshine and crisp blue skies. Several dozen antique cars and tractors, in Paris for an annual procession, this year decked themselves out with “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” stickers in solidarity with the magazine, and drove near the Arc de Triomphe as passersby cheered and clapped.
The sea of demonstrators pooling in Place de la Republique—the march’s starting point—quickly overflowed, sending human rivers into Paris’s manicured avenues. Crowds also breached the march’s official routes—toward Place de la Nation, 2 miles away—clogging the city’s cobblestoned byways with foot traffic.
Meanwhile, world leaders were ferried to the head of the rally in charted buses from the Élysée Palace, where Mr. Hollande had individually welcomed them in the morning. As the leaders arrived at the march, plain-clothed officers fanned out and police marksmen took rooftop positions.
Police forbade residents from leaving apartment buildings along the route. Residents were also ordered off their balconies and told to shut their windows, where French flags and “Je suis Charlie” banners fluttered in the breeze.
Patrick Pelloux, one of the first Charlie Hebdo contributors to arrive at the scene of Wednesday’s shooting, led the demonstration, wiping tears from his eyes and embracing Mr. Hollande. He and other magazine writers wore white headbands with “Charlie” scrawled across them. They walked alongside family members of the four people killed in the kosher grocery.
At Paris’s Place de La Bastille, thousands gathered behind metal barriers, waiting for the procession to arrive. Applause broke out at points as cars and police drove around the monument….(read more)
Write to Stacy Meichtry at firstname.lastname@example.org
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