Participants in protests across the country carried signs reading “I am Samuel” and “I am a teacher,” according to the BBC.
France is reeling from the murder, which took place on Friday in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
According to police, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee attacked Paty near the school and cut her throat, before posting a graphic statement of responsibility on social media. Police shot dead the attacker after he acted threateningly and did not respond to orders to disarm, authorities said.
Shortly after, President Emmanuel Macron called it an “Islamist terrorist attack” and said the teacher was targeted for “teaching freedom of expression”.
Jean-François Ricard, a French counterterrorism prosecutor, said Paty received death threats after allegedly showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a free speech class.
The Muslim faith forbids representations of the Prophet Muhammad. The BBC reported that Paty advised Muslim students in the class to look away if they expected to be offended.
Paty’s lesson sparked angry reactions, with a parent accusing Paty of showing depictions of the naked prophet, the BBC said. This parent filed a formal complaint and called on people to protest at the school.
The lesson was linked to the ongoing trial of the 2015 bombing in the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, who has been criticized for his caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Islamist extremists killed 12 people and 14 defendants are accused of providing logistical support to the armed men.
And late last month, after the trial began, two people were injured in an attack near the magazine’s former offices which authorities were investigating as a possible terrorist act.
Ricard’s office said on Friday that a terrorist investigation was opened and authorities arrested nine suspects, including several of the attacker’s family. The number of people detained rose to 11 on Sunday, according to Reuters.
The French Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, stressed on Saturday the need for unity within the educational community and more generally, urging the French to be proud of their values of freedom, equality and fraternity.
“Secularism is the key, it allows us to have differences, to believe or not to believe, and to respect each other,” said Blanquer. “And today it is clear to everyone that it was he who was attacked. ”
Marlène Schiappa, the young French Minister of Citizenship, condemned the attack in a series of tweets and he told me she would attend Sunday’s demonstration “in favor of teachers, secularism, freedom of expression and against Islamism”.
Thousands of people gathered in Paris Place de la République to pay tribute to Samuel Paty, the history professor beheaded on Friday in the Yvelines@AdamMimi, E.Henry, @Pepiwack #AFP pic.twitter.com/0vha1J5Et3
– Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) October 18, 2020
Many of the participants were teachers themselves, according to France 24, and said they were shocked and saddened by the murder.
“As a kindergarten teacher, I came here to defend my mission to educate, to sharpen the critical thinking of my students,” one said. “It makes me want to teach even more. There will be a before and an after this horrible event. ”
Another protester told the network that people had gathered “just to be together”.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex and the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo were among the thousands of demonstrators in Paris on Sunday. The two shared messages of strength and support on social media.
“You will not divide us,” Castex tweeted alongside a video of crowds singing the national anthem. “We are France! “
You don’t scare us.
We are not afraid.
You will not divide us.
We are France! pic.twitter.com/GjUQo9AePa
– Jean Castex (@JeanCASTEX) October 18, 2020
Outrage and sympathy also poured in from outside the country.
The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (57 nations) condemned Sunday’s attack, reiterating that it rejects “all forms of extremism, radicalization and terrorism for any reason or motive”.
And at a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Saturday night, President Trump expressed his condolences to Macron for what he called a “vicious and vicious Islamic terror attack.”
Reuters reports that a national tribute to Paty will take place in France on Wednesday.
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