Dozens of world leaders, including Muslims and Jews, marched at the head of a procession of more than a million French citizens, to pay tribute to victims of Islamist terrorist attacks, Reuters reported.
President Francois Hollande, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier encouraged French Jews to emigrate to Israel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Palesdtinian ASuthority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were among 45 foreign leaders walking from the Place de la Republique.
Hollande embraced Merkel, her eyes shut, on the steps of the Elysee Palace before the march.
After world leaders left the march, Hollande stayed to greet survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attack and their families.
A force of 2, 200 police, plain-clothes detectives, and soldiers patrolled Paris’ streets, while police snipers were positioned on rooftops. The city sewers were searched, and Metro stations near the march route were closed down.
The silent march, possibly the largest in the city’s modern history, was an expression of the shock the French are feeling over the murderous Islamist assault on seventeen people: cartoonists, journalists, shoppers in a kosher grocery and police.
“Paris is today the capital of the world. Our entire country will rise up and show its best side, ” said President Hollande.
An illuminated sign on top of the Arc de Triomphe read: “Paris est Charlie” (“Paris is Charlie”).
“We’re not going to let a little gang of hoodlums run our lives, ” Fanny Appelbaum, 75, who lost two sisters and a brother in Auschwitz, told Reuters, adding, . “Today, we are all one.”
Zakaria Moumni, a 34-year-old French-Moroccan who was draped in the French flag, said: “I am here to show the terrorists they have not won – it is bringing people together of all religions.”
Roger Cukierman, head of France’s 550, 000 member Jewish community—the largest in Europe, said Hollande had promised that Jewish schools and synagogues would receive extra protection.
Reuters cited France’s Agence Juive, which tracks Jewish emigration, estimates more than 5, 000 Jews left France for Israel in 2014, up from 3, 300 in 2013, which at the time was a 73 percent increase on 2012.
Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who received a boost in the polls following to the attacks, said her party had been excluded from the Paris demonstration.