Posted by News Express | 12 January 2015 | 4,018 times
More than 55 world leaders yesterday in Paris led a symbolic unity march to pay tribute to victims of the recent deadly attacks that killed 17 people in France.
Organisers say the number of people participating was around 1.3-1.5 million. Outside of Paris, nearly a million people marched, police sources say.
The world leaders along with French President Francois Hollande gathered with massive crowds at the Parisian square Place de la Republique. The world leaders walked hand-in-hand with Hollande as the square and streets filled up with crowds.
Initially, it was planned that the leaders would walk the entire 1.86 miles (three kilometres) distance towards Place de la Nation, but because of the huge crowd turnout, they walked only for a few metres.
At the end of the symbolic walk, Hollande shook hands with other world leaders and thanked them for their participation. He then offered his condolences to the team of French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and victims’ families, who too were part of the march.
Ahead of the rally, French President Francois Hollande spoke at the Elysee Palace where he received the international and French leaders. “Paris is the capital of the world today,” Hollande said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “This afternoon Paris is the world capital of resistance against terrorism and defence of freedoms.”
Fabius also told French radio Europe 1 that terrorists were disfiguring Islam. “Islam is not the religion of terrorists; their only religion is barbarism,” he said.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister David Cameron, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were among a host of European, African, Arab and Muslim leaders who joined the rally. Netanyahu announced that the Jewish victims of the attacks would be buried in Israel next Tuesday.
Ahead of the rally, an international meeting on fighting terrorism was held at the French interior ministry.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve received U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and interior ministers of Germany, England, Spain, Italy and Poland.
European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos was also present at the meeting along with EU Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove.
Minister Cazeneuve said all sides agreed to exchange information about recruitment of militants from within their countries, and sharing of intelligence on terrorist suspects.
“We are all here today because the terrorist phenomenon concerns us all. It makes no distinction between countries or continents. We are resolute and determined to fight terrorism,” he said.
The French interior minister also announced that they agreed to reinforce controls at Europe’s external frontiers by modifying Schengen visa rules “to tighten checks within Europe, while respecting the rules of free movement and privacy.”
Another international summit against terrorism will be held in Washington on Feb. 18, Holder announced.
Security at the rally was watertight. The French interior minister said more than 5,500 police and military personnel would be posted to provide protection to the millions at the rally.
Cazeneuve said 24 units of the national reserve, and public order representatives, would also be present.
A special unit of 150 civil police officers would also guard the visiting dignitaries, as sharpshooters manned rooftops.
A number of French political parties, unions, associations and religious institutions and leaders also attended the march.
Hundreds of thousands of people poured in on streets across France from early hours. Many of them held up their pens to show their support for freedom of expression.
In Paris’ Place de la Republique, people from all ages, backgrounds, faiths and nationalities gathered.
Many could be seen clapping their hands and wearing T-shirts or holding banners with different messages such as “I’m Charlie,” “I’m Ahmed!” in reference to the French satirical magazine and the French Muslim police officer who was killed Wednesday.
Other messages included “We are free,” “Long live the Republic,” “Long live freedom.”
Also, there were many people holding flags of countries apart from France, including Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Italy, Germany and many others.
“I’m proud to be here today to stand for our freedom. I’m Muslim, I’m French, and I can’t accept that some extremists distorted my religion and my country with such horrible and heinous acts,” Fatma, a 42-year-old French citizen told Anadolu Agency. “We will not be intimidated,” she added.
Xavier said: “I’m a Tunisian French Jew; I’m in the streets today to send a message to terrorists; we will survive, we will not fear you. I’m used to living and coexisting with Muslims, those fanatics don’t represent any religion.”
There were many foreigners in the rally as well. Tsui, a Chinese French literature student, said: “It is not about the nationality, we don’t need to be French to attend this march. I’m here to say no to terrorism and yes for freedom and tolerance.”
Waves of people sang the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, at two packed squares of Place de la Republique and Place de la Nation.
All the three suspected gunmen, who were involved in the worst terror attacks France saw in decades, were killed Friday, according to authorities.
•Adapted from an Anadolu Agency. Photo shows some of the world leaders at the Paris rally against terrorism.
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