Friday

22nd Nov 2019

Parisians reclaim city, as security debate begins

  • 'Not afraid' - a large crowd gathered at the symbolic Place de la République (Photo: Eric Maurice)

It took just a day for Parisians to transform the shock and bafflement of Friday's (13 November) terror attacks into a quiet show of resilience and determination.

On Sunday, despite a prohibition to gather in large numbers under the state of emergency declared on Saturday, thousands of people walked again through Paris streets, which had been almost deserted the day before.

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  • People paid homage to the 19 people killed at the bar La Belle Equipe (Photo: Eric Maurice)

People of all ages, styles and ethnic origins went to the places where gunmen killed 129 people and injured 352 in separate attacks on restaurants, bars, a concert hall, and next to the Stade de France.

They were the same mix of people who marched on 11 January after the Charlie Hebdo and Hypercasher killings.

The people of Paris were also back in the metro, parks, and on the terraces of bars and cafes.

"There is no demonstration but people need to be together," Sylvie, a university professor, told EUobserver next to the Bataclan, where 89 people were killed at a rock concert.

"It is our city. We need to be there."

"It is insane, but we must continue to live,” said Christine, who came with her daughter, who lives nearby.

A few streets away, in front of a restaurant on the Rue de Charonne, where 19 people were killed, Dominique, a man in his 50s, said he "came here today because I need to share my sorrow. I need to see faces."

He had stayed at home on Saturday, still in shock after Friday night's events.

Nerves

"In January, the shock was immediate," he said. "The people at Charlie Hebdo were well known, it was striking."

"This time the shock came later, because it was anonymous. But it is more personal because they attacked the deepest part of what I am," he said.

Nerves were still raw, however. After nightfall, there was a moment of panic on Place de la Republique, for an unknown reason, which showed how quickly the fear can return.

Before the disturbance, a large crowd had gathered at the foot of the monument, but, unlike the day before, there were no police to ask them to disperse.

Just as at the sites of the killings, dozens of small candles illuminating an improvised memorial of flowers and papers left a smell reminiscent of church incense.

A group of young people sang La Marseillaise with a guitar. Another chanted "No fear" - the same message that could be read in large letters on the monument itself. Four young men and women distributed "free hugs.”

It looked like a repeat of the January gatherings. But the first political reactions suggest national unity will be more difficult to establish than 10 months ago.

Create consensus

On Monday (16 November), president Francois Hollande will address an exceptional congress of both houses of parliament in Versailles. He said he would give a speech "to make the nation come together.”

All day long, France hosted political leaders at the Elysee Palace to try to forge national consensus.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy said he would support the government if "a major reorientation" of security policy is undertaken. 

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen pointed out the danger of "migrants" who would come to Europe to commit attacks.

A Syrian passport was found on one of the suicide bombers. Greek authorities said on Saturday the man had been registered as a refugee on Lesbos island. But it was later said that the passport was a fake.

For the people who came to pay homage to the victims, politicians now have to find a way to curb terrorism.

"We expect measures from the government," said Christine, the mother next to the Bataclan. "We are in the same situation as in January, but with several attacks more.”

"We have to be careful," university professor Sylvie said. "The National Front is in ambush, all this can only reinforce it."

Others are ready to make tougher policies.

'Wasted opportunity'

Julie, in her 20s, heard the shots from her apartment on Rue de Charonne and directly felt the panic next to the restaurant. Still in shock, she said: “All this must be stopped."

"We have to show that we are strong, and all means have to be used.”

"The post-Charlie period was a wasted opportunity," said Dominique, in front of the restaurant, where some people were crying amid the flowers and candles.

"Now we have to realise that these terrorists are ready for anything," he said.

"We have to consider that well-founded suspicion should be enough" to take tougher measures against Islamic radicals, he noted.

"Moderate muslims also have a duty to speak out and say this is not their religion," he added.

For their part, police have identified two of the suicide bombers and one of the gunmen. All are French. Two of them lived in Belgium.

Police also made arrests in France and Belgium, in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, on Saturday and Sunday.


One man, suspected to be the survivor of an eight-man cell, is being hunted.

He is said to have hired the car that was used for the restaurant and bar killings and which was later found in a Paris suburb with automatic rifles and bullets still inside.

In Paris under shock, all feel attacked

In the wake of the terror attacks that killed at least 129 people Friday, Parisians pay homage to the dead and, 10 months after the January killings, wonder what will come next.

France seeks answers to security challenge

Police raids in France and strikes in Syria after the deadly Paris attacks show French authorities have to find internal and external strategies against terrorism.

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