Tens of thousands of people gathered across France on Sunday in tribute to the beheaded professor on Friday for showing his students caricatures of Muhammad. This Islamist attack aroused national emotion.
Theater of the historic demonstration which had followed the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher on January 11, 2015, the Place de la République in Paris was filled at the beginning of the afternoon with thousands of demonstrators who came to defend the freedom of expression, say no to “obscurantism” and sing the Marseillaise.
Signs in hand, “I am a teacher”, “No to totalitarianism of thought”, “Freedom of expression, freedom to teach”, the demonstrators calmly greeted the memory of this teacher. Some protesters carried placards displaying cartoons of Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo.
“We are not afraid”
“We are not afraid. You will not divide us,” Prime Minister Jean Castex, present in the Parisian procession, launched on Twitter. “We are France!” At his side, the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer and his colleague delegate to Citizenship Marlène Schiappa “in support of teachers, secularism, freedom of expression and against Islamism”.
The bosses of the presidential party La République en Marche, Stanislas Guerini, La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, and Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts, Julien Bayou, were also present. Just like the former President François Hollande and his former Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
“I’m a teacher”
Other gatherings were held across the country. Everywhere, long applause, Marseillaise, flowers and candles. In Lyon, Place Bellecour was black with 12,000 people, according to the prefecture. There were more than 3,000 in Strasbourg, 1,500 in Lille, 2,500 in Marseille and 2,000 in Montpellier.
In Lyon, many of them wore a sticker “I am a teacher” on the back of their jacket or a rose in their hand. “The death of this professor is complete horror, it’s dramatic. It is someone who died of his ideas,” said Geneviève Huguel, 70 years old.
A national tribute will be paid Wednesday in coordination with the family of the murdered teacher, announced the Elysee, without specifying the location. As of Saturday, a thousand parents, elected officials or ordinary citizens gathered with emotion on Saturday in front of the college where the victim worked in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the western suburbs of Paris.
The teacher was beheaded on Friday around 5:00 p.m. near the college where he was teaching history and geography. His assailant, an 18-year-old Russian of Chechen origin, was later killed by police.
In a message posted on Twitter, he explained his gesture by saying he wanted revenge on the one “who dared to belittle” the Prophet Muhammad. The young man was known for a background of common law but not intelligence services for radicalization.
According to the elements unveiled by the anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-François Ricard, the professor had organized with his students a debate, planned as part of civic education classes, during which he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. He then suggested to the students who wished not to look at certain drawings.
Eleven people arrested
The father of a student, placed in police custody, was indignant about this course in several videos, making public on the internet the name of the professor and the address of the college. He went to meet the principal to ask for her dismissal. The professor then received several threatening calls.
In total, eleven people have been arrested and placed in police custody since Friday evening, including relatives of the assailant, but also some people who delivered the professor to the vengeance on social networks.