The streets of Paris overflowed on Sunday, as more than a million people converged on the capital to take part in a march for national unity. Among the masses gathered around the Place de la Republique square were over a dozen world leaders, as well as members of a swath of France’s political parties.
Demonstrators carrying French flags and the ubiquitous “Je Suis Charlie” signs stretched along two separate routes toward the Place de la Nation. The area was closely guarded by hundreds of troops and police. The government-sponsored rally comes after extremist attacks last week claimed the lives of 17 victims. The ordeal began with an assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper offices, which led to a multiday manhunt, and culminated in two deadly hostage crises.
France is still reeling from the events, which newspaper Le Monde equated to a French 9/11, and there has been fear over the effect the attack will have on an already tense society. In the days following the killings, several reports of Muslims being targeted in racist or violent incidents have emerged. France’s Jewish population is also on edge, with reports of an increasing number of Jews leaving the country in fear, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraging emigration following the killing of hostages in a kosher supermarket late last week.
At the rally on Sunday, however, the tone of French unity was at the forefront, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls declaring, “We are all Charlie, we are all police, we are all Jews of France.”