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.
In Paris, it is the emblematic Place de la République, the epicenter of the enormous parade of January 11, 2015 after the jihadist attacks in Charlie hebdo and the Hyper Cacher, which was chosen for the rally.
Signs with the words “I am a teacher”, “No to totalitarianism of thought” or “Freedom of expression, freedom to teach” in the hand, the demonstrators calmly greeted the memory of this teacher.
Other demonstrations were held in large French cities, in Lille (north), Lyon (east) and Nice (south-east) in particular.
Several political figures of all stripes were present in Paris: the 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, as well as the chief of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Former head of state Francois Hollande also joined the rally.
“You don’t scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France! The Prime Minister posted on Twitter, with footage of the protest supporting it.
Some protesters carried placards displaying caricatures of Muhammad published by the satirical weekly Charlie hebdo. The French anthem was also sung.
National tribute Wednesday
Guigané, 34 years old and socio-cultural mediator in the Paris region, her 4-year-old son on her 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 or get used to it,” she says.
On 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, on the western outskirts of Paris. His assailant, Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Russian refugee of Chechen origin, was later shot dead by police.
Three weeks after an Islamist attack in which a Pakistani man wounded two people who were in front of the former premises of Charlie hebdo, and in the midst of the debate over religious separatism, the assassination deeply shocked the country.
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 old school to lay flowers in “homage to her former teacher”. “I remember his free speech class. We had talked about Charlie [[[[Weekly], we had made drawings which are still hung in the college, ”explains the young girl, moved.
A national tribute will be paid Wednesday in coordination with the family of the murdered teacher, announced the presidency of the Republic, without specifying the location.
According to information released by counterterrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard, the history teacher organized a debate with his students, 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, taken into 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 of the establishment to ask his dismissal. The professor then received several threatening calls.
Adboullakh A., known to the authorities for a background of common law but not to the intelligence services for radicalization, 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 were found in his phone. They had also been posted on Twitter, they have since been withdrawn.
His neighbors have painted the portrait of a young man “discreet”, “immersed in religion” for three years.
Moscow, for its part, insisted, through its embassy in Paris, that “this crime had nothing to do with Russia”, the young man having left the minor country.
Eleven people have been arrested and taken into police custody since Friday evening, including relatives of the assailant, but also some people who turned the professor over on social media.
In total, the wave of unprecedented jihadist attacks that began in 2015 in France left 259 people dead.