PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of people gathered across France on Sunday to support teachers and defend free speech after the murder of Samuel Paty, a history professor beheaded by a suspected Islamist on Friday.
From Paris to Lyon, Marseille and Lille, large crowds gathered quietly, stopping regularly to applaud, make minutes of silence or sing the national anthem.
Prime Minister Jean Castex attended the rally on Place de la République in Paris with Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer and politicians from all walks of life, showing their solidarity after a murder that shocked the country.
“You don’t scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France! Castex later tweeted.
Paty, 47, was killed outside his school in a Paris suburb by an 18-year-old assailant. Earlier this month, the professor showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a free speech class, angering a number of Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any portrayal of the prophet is blasphemous.
The attacker, born in Russia of Chechen descent, was shot dead by police shortly after the attack. Police arrested 11 people in connection with the murder.
Those attending Sunday’s events wore COVID-19 masks and carried signs such as “Teach yes, bleed no” or “Je suis Charlie” in a reference to the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were attacked during the event. of a massacre five years ago.
“We are here to defend the Republic, the values of the Republic: freedom, equality, fraternity and secularism. We feel that the nation is threatened, ”said Pierre Fourniou, 83, in Paris.
Paty was the target of an angry social media campaign before he was killed. Castex said in an interview with Journal du Dimanche that the government is working on a strategy to better protect teachers from threats.
President Emmanuel Macron was due to hold a security meeting with key ministers later Sunday, his office said.
A national tribute will be organized on Wednesday.