At least 3.7 million people, including world leaders, marched in an anti-terrorism rally in Paris on Sunday, French officials said, calling the massive gathering the largest in France’s history.
The day was emotional and peaceful, a gesture of unity just days after Islamic extremists slaughtered 17 people.
World leaders joined French President Francois Hollande, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The day also brought together an unlikely duo at the rally: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A photographer captured Merkel leaning her head gently on Hollande’s shoulder.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 11, 2015
The rally began with a march through Paris streets at 3 p.m., but a massive group of people stayed into the night. Among them was Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris and president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.
One man in the crowd said the French people must not “give in to fear.” Terrorists, he said, “will not win.”
— Mark Cottray (@markcottray) January 11, 2015
Others carried signs that echoed the now-famous phrase that honored slain journalists at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, “Je suis Charlie.”
Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at the magazine, talked about the magazine’s financial struggles and the difficulty of working under constant threats: “I am very happy for all this help, but for us, it was a heavy price to pay, and it is too much.
“It took 12 deaths for us to finally be a little bit understood after we have been hated and booed by everybody.”
For the guards and police officers who lost their lives in last week’s attacks in France, there were signs reading “We are all cops.”
For Muslims in France who want to convey that the ideology embraced by the Muslim gunmen does not represent the whole of the faith, signs read “We are all Muslims.”
For everyone, no matter their race, class or ethnic background, signs that said “We are all French” were held up with pride.