According to Agence France-Presse, over 2.5 million people gathered at the Place de la République earlier today for the Marche Républicaine, the largest demonstration in the history of France. The stated aim was to express solidarity and to mourn seventeen victims – fifteen men and two women; Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists among them – of brutal violence first at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and subsequently at other sites.
The Mairie of Paris remembered the fallen police officers Clarissa Jean-Philippe and Ahmed Merabet and encouraged the crowd to remember that we are all ‘citizens of the world’. (pic.twitter.com/VHKZkj0HqM)
Early this afternoon, I was deeply moved by the image broadcast by the Mairie de Paris today, honouring the two police officers who died in the attacks, and gently refusing to let the event become an accusation against the minority religions of France, and I found myself, through the course of the day, among the further millions who found their minds and hearts returning to Paris again and again during the day.
Those who were there reported a wonderful atmosphere of solidarity among the crowd, and some of the images that individuals and groups were broadcasting via signs, gestures, and coloured fabric were deeply reassuring. The event did have its critics, but it was an epic, world-scale exercise in trying to bring forth meaning from tragedy, and it has left us with some images worth remembering.
Below is a scrapbook of borrowed images which appeared on Twitter this afternoon and evening (I am writing late at night, and as I look at the clock, I see it was already yesterday…).
A veiled Muslim woman expressing support for the values of the Republic: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. (pic.twitter.com/89QreunGb5)
The ‘man standing on a bus’ was recognized by a number of news agencies, including Agence France-Presse and the BBC (pic.twitter.com/wwLHgwlahW)
This one speaks for itself (pic.twitter.com/scpAC4uRKb)
This one speaks for itself (pic.twitter.com:nirdVI6LAf)
The power of the pencil (pic.twitter.com/jDvUXBwQ8w)
The power of the pencil (pic.twitter.com/A4sshC96vf)
The power of the pencil (pic.twitter.com/TLnPeNov35)
Most outlets reported that the march was led by world leaders including Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, and Benjamin Netanhayu, Prime Minister of Israel (source: pic.twitter.com/tck55hrCiv)
It was reported on Twitter that the world leaders were in fact kept apart from the crowd in a closed-off street for their ‘photo op’ – I don’t know whether they joined the main march later or not (pic.twitter.com:i4vppt5dB9)
Even some who were disturbed by exploitation of the event by politicians and the media nonetheless found it moving (pic.twitter.com/qh7wyOZ2B4)
An infographic from Agence France-Press gives an overview of the march and its messages (pic.twitter.com/qh7wyOZ2B4)
Other marches took place around France in solidarity (pic.twitter.com:4lHI93st0b)
And in London – Trafalgar Square (pic.twitter.com:FRD5OoCdQo)
Even the Empire State Building was wearing the Three Colours (pic.twitter.com:FRD5OoCdQo)
After the march, a man visits the citizen memorial to Ahmed Merabet, the first police officer at the scene of the Charlie Hebdo attack, who was killed (pic.twitter.com:7PBspeMLxp)