Against the horror, the mobilization: tens of thousands of people gathered on Sunday all over France to pay tribute to a teacher, beheaded on Friday for showing his students caricatures of Muhammad, an Islamist attack that aroused emotion and fear in the country.
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In Paris, it is the emblematic Place de la République, the epicenter of the huge parade of January 11, 2015 after the jihadist attacks of Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, which was chosen for the gathering.
Signs in hand, “I am a teacher”, “No to totalitarianism of thought”, “Freedom of expression, freedom to teach”, the demonstrators calmly greeted the memory of this teacher, proclaiming their refusal of the obscurantism and singing the Marseillaise.
“I am there as a teacher, as a mother, as a Frenchwoman and as a Republican”, declared Virginie, 52, a music teacher from the Paris region.
Other events were held in major French cities: in Lyon (center-east), but also in Lille (north), Strasbourg (east) or Marseille (south).
In the crowd, many teachers. “I am angry with the institution, which does not protect us enough”, exclaimed in Lille Lise, professor of French.
Several political figures of all stripes were present in Paris: Prime Minister Jean Castex, the socialist mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, the right-wing president of the Île-de-France region which includes Paris, Valérie Pécresse, or the head of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Former socialist head of state François Hollande also joined the rally.
“You don’t scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France! », Tweeted the Prime Minister, images of the demonstration in support.
Some protesters carried placards displaying caricatures of Muhammad published by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
Guigané, 34 years old and socio-cultural mediator in the Paris region, her 4-year-old son on his shoulders came to pay homage to Samuel Paty, and “to be indignant against this odious and dreadful act”. “This violence must not set in and become our daily life, nor that we get used to it”.
Friday afternoon, Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old father, was beheaded near the college where he taught history and geography in a quiet area of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the western suburbs of Paris. His assailant, Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Russian refugee of Chechen origin was then shot dead by police.
Three weeks after an Islamist attack during which a Pakistani had wounded two people who were in front of the former Charlie Hebdo premises with a chopper, and in the midst of the debate over religious separatism, the assassination deeply shocked the country.
A national tribute will be paid on Wednesday. As of Saturday, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a thousand parents, elected officials or ordinary citizens gathered with emotion on Saturday in front of the college where Mr. Paty worked.
The students were particularly affected, like Marie, a high school student who came to her former establishment to lay flowers in “homage to her former teacher”.
“I remember his free speech class. We had talked about Charlie, we had made drawings that are still hanging in the college, ”explains the young girl, moved.
According to the elements unveiled by the anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard, the history teacher had organized with his students a debate, planned as part of civic education classes, during which he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. He then suggested to the students who wished not to look at certain drawings.
The father of a student, placed in police custody, was indignant at this course in several videos, making public on the internet the name of the professor and the address of the college, and going to meet the principal to ask for his dismissal. The professor then received several threatening calls.
Known for a background of common law, but not intelligence services for radicalization, Abdoullakh Anzorov had carried out spotting Friday afternoon near the college, according to Mr. Ricard.
A message addressed to Emmanuel Macron, “the leader of the infidels”, explaining wanting to take revenge on the one “who dared to belittle” the Muslim prophet and the photo of his beheaded victim was found in his phone. They had also been posted on Twitter.
His neighbors painted the portrait of a young man “discreet”, “immersed in religion” for three years.
A total of eleven people have been arrested and placed in police custody since Friday evening, including relatives of the assailant, but also some people who have delivered the professor to the vengeance on social networks.
A defense council, chaired by Emmanuel Macron, meets late Sunday afternoon to discuss in particular the state of the Islamist threat. In total, the wave of unprecedented jihadist attacks that began in 2015 in France left 259 people dead.