Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Millions march in France for freedom of speech

  • Several million people, including many European government leaders, participated in marches in France (Photo: Ben Ledbetter)

Between 1.2 and 1.6 million people marched in Paris Sunday to show solidarity with the victims of last week's terror attacks.

Many European government leaders were also present at the march, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister David Cameron, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

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  • (Photo: elysee.fr)

The leaders came to Paris to demonstrate their support for values like freedom of speech.

“When these values are threatened we can say only one thing: we have to stand united,” said Merkel.

The march was also attended by government leaders of smaller EU nations, like Charles Michel (Belgium), Boyko Borisov (Bulgaria), Zoran Milanovic (Croatia), Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Republic), Helle Thorning-Schmidt, (Denmark), Antonis Samaras (Greece), Viktor Orban (Hungary), Laimdota Straujuma (Latvia), Mark Rutte (The Netherlands), Pedro Passos Coelho (Portugal), Klaus Iohannis (Romania) and Alexander Stubb (Finland).

The three European presidents were there - Jean-Claude Juncker (European commission), Martin Schulz (European parliament) and Donald Tusk (European council)- as was NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

For at least one day, Paris was “capital of the world” French president Francois Hollande said.

The crowd, which moved through Paris at very slow pace due to the enormous amount of people, chanted “Je suis Charlie”, sang the national anthem La Marseillaise, and carried banners reading slogans like “Make fun, not war”.

Around 2,000 police officers and 1,350 soldiers were on duty in Paris on Sunday, according to France24.

According to the French government, between 1.2 and 1.6 million people marched in Paris, and around 3.7 million people in the entire country. It called the numbers “without precedent”.

Previous public manifestations of that magnitude in Paris took place for the liberation of the city in 1944, when 1 million people took to the streets, and the 1998 win of the football world championship, reported Le Monde.

Elsewhere in Europe, people also marched in solidarity. Around 20,000 marched in Brussels, the seat of the EU institutions, while there were also protests in cities like Berlin and Vienna.

Orban demonises immigrants at Paris march

A French press watchdog has highlighted the hypocrisy of some VIPs at Sunday’s march in Paris, while Hungary’s Orban used the event to call for a crackdown on immigration.

Opinion

Why are liberal democracies not winning the argument?

Unlimited freedom to say whatever one wants, the right to love and marry whomever one likes, a democratic decision-making process - we should not fool ourselves into thinking that these are universally accepted concepts.

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