Tens of thousands of French citizens are rallying today in memory of Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher, who was brutally murdered on Friday near the collège (middle school) where he taught.
Rally in memory of Samuel Paty in the place de la République in Paris. Photo: L’Express.
A large crowd gathered in the place de la République in Paris to condemn the horrific act of violence against a teacher. Protesters carried signs specifically supporting teachers: “Je suis enseignant” (I am a teacher), “Je suis prof” (I am a professor or teacher), and “Nous, profs, enseignons la liberté d’expression et ça va continuer” (We teachers teach freedom of speech and this will continue), and “L’école pleure mais n’a pas peur” (Schools cry but don’t fear).
Protesters in Paris. Photo: Le Monde.
Other signs had broader expressions of support: “Je défend la liberté d’expression” (I defend freedom of speech), “Freedom of speech” (in English), and “Ils ne décapiteront pas la République” (They will not behead the Republic).
Prime Minister Jean Castex and the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo both addressed the crowd, and Castex tweeted a message: “Vous ne nous faites pas peur. Nous n’avons pas peur. Vous ne nous diviserez pas. Nous sommes la France !“
Many French people have expressed worries about French public education and the freedom of speech being under attack. French teachers and teachers’ unions have complained about unsafe working conditions in some neighborhoods over the past decade.
A woman protesting in Lille. Photo: Le Monde.
This attack comes in the midst of renewed trauma in France over the Charlie Hebdo Attacks in January 2015 and the current trial of individuals who allegedly provided material support to the militants who committed the killings at the Charlie Hebdo offices. Charlie Hebdo had long been known for its satirical cartoons and controversial anti-religious stances, but Islamist extremists had accused the magazine of blasphemy for publishing cartoons of Muhammad.
Samuel Paty apparently became a target of Islamist militants after showing some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Muhammad during a class discussion of freedom of expression.
On a personal note, the rallies today are a sad reminder of the massive rallies in France in January 2015, when I was doing research in Paris and participated in the protests in memory of the slain editors, writers, and editors of Charlie Hebdo.
Le Monde, L’Express, and the BBC report on the rallies in Paris and across France.