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
What a great post! I felt like I was there, like I could feel the calmness and kindness and solidarity of the crowd. It’s so wonderful that your parents went with you. Your family now has a shared memory of a truly historic event.
Nous sommes tous Charlie. Thank you for bringing us with you in a small way.
Maybe there is hope for the world if we can all fight against barbarians together.
Unity is key. Not Jews, Muslims and others, just one people standing together for their belief in Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité
We were fortunate to be part of the march from our apartment balcony on boulevard Voltaire. Just near place de la Republique. We chose to sing and chant and clap from our balcony as we could see the crowd was larger than expected and moved at a snails pace so I decided to post pictures on social media instead.
I was so proud. I cried. Love Denise
I loved your view and seeing that you were able to participate!
I find no solidarity with the Jews who were killed. Where is Je suis Juif?? This was not just a random market. It was a kosher market on the Sabbath. Why is therno recognition of these deaths? Why no solidarity with anyone but Charlie?
BTW, I am am athestist. But I find this behavior, not just by the French, but by all the other nations a bit too telling. Will the hatred of Judism know no bounds?
Ford, If you can not see the support for the Jewish community, then I have been remiss in my job as a reporter. Benjamin Netanyahu marched directly to Hollande’s right. From the Place de la Nation, the two men and many leaders of the French government went directly to the Grand Synagogue for a service in honor of everyone who was murdered by the terrorists. The service was broadcast live on TV.
It is true that the majority of the signs held by the general public read Je Suis Charlie.
This is mostly because the march was organized Wednesday evening before any Jews had been killed for their Judaism (Wolinski, killed at Charlie Hebdo, was Jewish but killed for his work as a cartoonist). Within less than an hour after the attacks, the entire movement had adopted the slogan and it has stuck. However, there were plenty of people carrying signs that read “Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Flic, Je Suis Juif”. Or a variation thereof, you can see a similar one, that includes Je Suis Muslim on my FB page. http://tinyurl.com/ns8z2xn
As a Jew, I carried a Je Suis Charlie sign because, for me that was enough to symbolize my stand against extremists and terrorists everywhere harming anyone.
Thank you so much for your words back to me. I am glad to hear “I am a Jew/Muslim” were seen in the crowd. It is not only the right to speak freely and without fear or censorship that is at risk every day but it is the right of all people to exist; to simply live the life we choose to live, to say that which we need to say and to think as befits our beliefs. It is our right and our obligation to live in peace with one another even though we disagree. Disagreement does not have to be disagreeable.
May your words and the words and actions of so many open the eyes of the narrow minded. May we march in Solidarity into a better world.
I have to point out to Ford Cornell that the Jewish community were very well represented and supported on the march. Thousands of people marched wearing Jewish sashes and posters with JE SUIS JUIF and JE SUIS FLIC alongside JE SUIS CHARLIE and ideed . JE SUIS MUSELMA . JE SUIS AHMED. In honour of the muslim policeman who died. And many more groups. This was a march to support freedom of speech and against terrorism of any kind. (any political or reigeous viewpoint). that would try to silence by violence anybody who does not agree with their views.
Vive La France!! So proud of the French citizens and all others that marched in Paris.
Merci for your support!
I am touched that so many wanted to be there by our side, even if that meant a virtual visit.
Beautiful post Sylvia. I wish I could have gone, but a 1.5 million strong crowd is no place for a 6month pregnant lady… Alas, I was a “solidare” as I could be via social media. Nonetheless, the atmosphere from the march seeped into every breath of air in Paris, so I felt it all the way over in the 17th! And it seems it was felt worldwide…
Thank you for this post.
Glad you were able to join us in spirit.
Thank you, Sylvia, for taking us along with you. We can see photos online, but to hear your personal description was very moving. Merci.
Thank you for reading. It is a difficult time as I watch the news with more deaths as people abroad protest against the newest edition of Charlie Hebdo.