Thousands of people gather in France in defiance and solidarity after the beheading of a teacher

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                Des milliers de personnes se sont rassemblées à Paris et dans d'autres villes françaises dimanche dans une manifestation de solidarité et de défi suite à la décapitation d'un enseignant devant son école pour avoir montré aux élèves des caricatures du prophète Mahomet.
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                                    <p>L'assassinat du professeur d'histoire Samuel Paty dans une banlieue parisienne vendredi a suscité l'indignation en France et les souvenirs d'une vague de violence islamiste en 2015 déclenchée par les caricatures du prophète Mahomet publiées par le magazine satirique Charlie Hebdo.

“It is absolutely important to show our mobilization and our solidarity, our national cohesion”, declared the Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer to France 2, calling “everyone to (to) support the teachers”.

Sunday’s largest rally took place at Place de la République in Paris, a traditional place of protest where around 1.5 million people demonstrated in 2015 following a deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo office by Islamist gunmen.

The demonstrators held up posters declaring “No to totalitarianism of thought” and “I am a teacher”.

Some chanted “I am Samuel”, echoing the cry “I am Charlie” that traveled the world after the Charlie Hebdo murders.

Prime Minister Jean Castex and the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo were among those present.

Gatherings also took place in Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.

Paty had been the target of online threats for showing the cartoons, with the father of a schoolgirl appealing online for “mobilization” against him, French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said.

The 18-year-old suspect, named Abdullakh A, was shot dead by police shortly after the attack.

Witnesses said he was seen at school on Friday afternoon asking students where he could find Paty.

The schoolgirl’s father and a well-known Islamist activist were among those arrested, along with several family members of the suspect.

An eleventh person was taken into custody on Sunday, a judicial source said.

Ricard said the school received threats after class in early October, which featured the controversial cartoons – one of the prophets naked – with the girl’s father accusing Paty of spreading “pornography.”

The aggrieved father named Paty and gave the school’s address in a social media post just days before the beheading, which President Emmanuel Macron called an Islamist terrorist attack.

‘Immersed in religion’

Ricard did not say whether the attacker had any ties to the school, students or parents, or whether he acted independently in response to the online campaign.

A photo of Paty and a message confessing to his murder were found on the attacker’s cell phone.

The prosecutor said the attacker was armed with a knife, an air pistol and five rounds. He had fired shots at the police and attempted to stab them as they approached him.

He was in turn shot nine times, Ricard said.

Residents of the Norman town of Evreux, where the attacker lived in the Madeleine district, described him as low-key.

A resident who had been to school with him said he had become visibly religious in recent years.

“Before he had been involved in fighting but for the last two or three years he had calmed down” and had been “immersed in religion,” he said.

Friday’s attack was the second such incident since a trial began last month after the January 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The magazine reposted the cartoons as the trial approached, and last month a young Pakistani injured two people with a meat cleaver outside the magazine’s old office.

Ricard said Paty’s murder illustrated “the very high-level terrorist threat” that France still faces, but added that the attacker himself was not known to the French intelligence services.

Menace Macron

An investigation is underway for “murder linked to a terrorist organization”.

The investigation will also focus on a tweet from an account opened by the attacker, and since closed, which showed a photo of Paty’s head and described Macron as “the leader of the infidels”.

Macron’s office said a national tribute would be organized for Paty on Wednesday.

On Saturday, hundreds of students, teachers and parents went to Paty’s school to drop white roses.

Martial, un élève de 16 ans, a déclaré que Paty avait adoré son travail: "Il voulait vraiment nous apprendre des choses."

According to parents and teachers, Paty gave Muslim children the opportunity to leave the classroom before showing the cartoons, saying he didn’t want their feelings hurt.

Virginie, 15, said Paty shows the cartoons every year as part of a discussion about freedom after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

(AFP)

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