Thousands of people gathered across France on Sunday to defend freedom of expression after the killing of Samuel Paty, a history teacher beheaded by a suspected Islamist on Friday.
From Paris to Lyon, Marseille and Lille large crowds gathered quietly, pausing regularly to applaud, hold minutes of silence or sing the national anthem.
Prime Minister Jean Castex attended the gathering on Place de La Republique in Paris along with Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, to show solidarity after a killing that has shocked the country.
“You don’t scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France!” Castex tweeted later.
People at the event wore masks and carried signs such as “Teaching yes, bleeding no” or “I am Charlie” in a reference to satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were attacked in a mass killing five years ago.
Paty was killed outside his school in a Paris suburb by an 18-year-old attacker. Earlier this month, the teacher had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering a number of Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
President Emmanuel Macron said the attack bore all the hallmarks of an “Islamist terrorist attack” and the teacher had been murdered because he “taught freedom of expression”.
The killer, who was born in Russia of Chechen origin, was shot dead by police soon after the attack. Police have detained 11 people in connection with the killing.