Sunday 12/5/21
ISLAMIST ATTACK

Parisians rally for teachers after suspected Islamist beheading

"You don't scare us. We are not afraid," Prime Minister Jean Castex, who was also at the rally, wrote.

Paris-eiffel-tower
Photo: Pixabay.

Hundreds of people gathered at Paris' Place de la Republique square in support of teachers and freedom of speech on Sunday, just two days after the brutal beheading of a history teacher at the hands of a suspected Islamist.

At 15:00, participants clapped for several minutes in solidarity with 47-year-old Samuel Paty, killed in suburban Paris apparently for discussing controversial caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed that originally appeared in satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

"You don't scare us. We are not afraid," Prime Minister Jean Castex, who was also at the rally, wrote on Twitter.

Some carried placards reading "Je suis prof" (I am a teacher), echoing the "Je suis Charlie" slogan that became the rallying cry of marches after a deadly Islamist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

The brutal attack hits France as it battles a second wave of coronavirus infections. The highest virus warning level applies in Paris, where gatherings of more than 1,000 people are prohibited.

However, the demo, which was organized by the editorial team of Charlie Hebdo, the organization SOS Racisme and teachers' unions, was reportedly officially permitted to go ahead.

"I'm here to defend freedom of expression, freedom of teaching," said 61-year-old protester Muriel, herself a teacher.

Another protester, Valentin, carried a placard displaying the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons.

"If a teacher is attacked, the republic is attacked," he said.

Criticism

There has been criticism in France that no protective measures were put in place over threats made against the school. The father of a pupil had published posts on social media and complained to the school about the incident. Prosecutors have found no link between the father and the alleged attacker.

"Every teacher in France must be supported if they find themselves in this kind of situation," Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said.

Tens of thousands were estimated to have come out to rally across France, including in the cities of Marseille and Bordeaux.

Earlier on Sunday, an 11th suspect - a friend of the attacker - was arrested, but French prosecutors did not give details about how he was linked to the killing.

The perpetrator was killed by police shortly after the crime.

Paty had shown the caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression in early October. Images of Mohammed are forbidden in Islam and can cause offence among Muslims.

A series of attacks

The publication of the caricatures led to the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo. Suspects accused of links to those attacks are currently before the courts in a trial that is expected to run until mid-November.

A subsequent series of attacks in France, many claimed by the Islamic State terrorist organization, cost more than 230 lives in 2015 and 2016.

Charlie Hebdo's former office was also the site of a cleaver attack just a few weeks ago after it republished some of the cartoons of Mohammed ahead of the ongoing trial.

French President Emmanuel Macron chaired a defence meeting on Sunday with several ministers and national anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard. The group decided on more intensive monitoring of online platforms in order to act more quickly against calls for violence, Elysee sources said.

Macron had already announced plans to crack down on radicalization in a speech in early October.

A state memorial service is due to be held for Samuel Paty on Wednesday.

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