The itinerary for yesterday’s march was no accident. Beginning at th Place de la République, we were marching with ancient Greek republican values to the Place de la Nation. A poignant reminder of who we are and what we believe in as a country, regardless of our race, religion or personal history.
When we first heard about the march on Wednesday, Mr French mentioned it may be a good idea to attend. I had already attended that evening’s rally, and was happy that we’d be returning to show our support together. But my parents are visiting right now and I was torn about spending time with them or at the march. On Thursday evening I told them that we may possibly want to attend the event and asked if it would interest them. They had been horrified by the murders and were not against the idea, but were not entirely sure either.
By Friday evening we were at home, glued to the television watching French police storm Hyper Casher and it was no longer a question. We’d be attending the march together. The terrorists had attacked our liberty. Now they had hit fraternity and equality, the pillars of French culture.
By now, you may have read that 1.5 million bodies filled the streets of Paris, nearly 4 million people marched the streets of France and an estimated 100,000 showed their support in cities across the globe. More than 40 world leaders attended, including the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president from Mali was there beside the leaders of Great Britain, Spain, Germany and Italy. The democratic world was by our side, acknowledging that not only France, but across the globe, freedom is under attack.
We met for lunch then headed to the metro at 2pm, a full hour before the march. Public transportation had been made free for the day but that is not why the train arrived packed like a sardine can. We waited for a second train, then a third. By the fourth train we decided to go for it. In the metro car, the mood was calm and understanding, everyone cooperating, but I was worried that the quais at Strasbourg Saint Denis would be packed and convinced Mr French we should get off two stops early, at Etienne Marcel.
We stepped out of the metro and were immediately part of the march, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands heading to the Place de la République as one. We were of every age, color, religion and background. We were immigrants, ancient families, visitors. People came alone, as a family, with friends or co-workers. Normally, it would have been a brisk, 12 minute walk. Yesterday, we were blocked in an surrealistically calm traffic jam of humanity. There was none of the stereotypical French pushing, and shoving. Everyone was kind and polite and there in solidarity for the values of the republic. It didn’t matter how long it took, being present was enough. There were no cries or chants. Occasionally crowd would break out into a spontaneous round of applause for a police officer or when emergency vehicles would pass. Egos dissolved, frustration dissipated. After two hours, just 100 metres from our destination, police turned us away. The Place was saturated. Typically there would have been cries of disgust or at the very least, people trying to sneak through. On Sunday, the crowd just held their signs up higher and headed back they way we’d arrived, looking for an alternative route. Our group headed into a pastry shop, taking a very welcome break before returning to the streets and finally making it to the Republic.
The sun had set, the march had moved on, yet thousands remained lighting candles, brandishing colorful flags from across the globe and singing the Marseillaise in the name of democracy for all.
Click here if you’d like to more photos of the event on my Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/FindingNoon