Thousands of people rallied in central Paris on Sunday in a flawed display of solidarity with a teacher to show cartoons of Prophet Mohammed’s pupils.
On the Place de la Republique, protesters put up separate posters declaring: “Not for totalitarianism of thought” and “I am a teacher” In memory of killing coworker Samuel Patty.
“You do not scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France!” Tweeted Prime Minister Jean Castex, who was among those gathered at the historic protest site.
Castex was accompanied by Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanchere, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Junior Interior Minister Marlene Schiappa who said she was “in support of teachers, secularism, freedom of expression”.
Some in the crowd chanted “I am Samuel”, an echo of the cry “I am Charlie” which was published by Islamic gunmen in 2015 after killing 12 people in the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine for publishing the caricature of the Islamic Prophet Was cried
Amid the thunderous applause, others said: “Freedom of expression, freedom to teach.”
“I am here as a teacher, as a mother, as a French woman and as a republican,” said participant Virginie.
Charlie Hebdo’s attack in 2015 sparked a wave of Islamic violence and forced France into a national discussion about Islam’s place in a secular society.
Following the massacre in the magazine, some 1.5 million people gather on the same Place de la Republique in support of freedom of expression.
“Things have to change”
Local officials said around 6,000 people gathered in Lyon, eastern France, on Sunday.
“The entire academic community is affected by this, and so forth by society,” said Bernard Desevert, representative of the teachers’ union in Toulouse.
Hundreds of people gathered in Nice on the south coast, where a man crowded a truck on the July 14 national holiday in 2016, killing 86 people.
“Everyone is in danger today,” Valentine Mule, an 18-year-old student, attended the Nice rally. “Things have to change.”
Demonstrations were planned for other cities as well.
Patty was brutally murdered on her way home from school, where she teaches in a Paris suburb on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday, counter-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said that Patty was the target of online threats to show cartoons to his civilian class.
Prophet’s statements are widely forbidden in Islam.
A photo of the teacher and a message confessing his murder were found on the mobile phone of his killer, Chechen Abdullakh Anjorov, 18, who was shot by police.
Witnesses said the suspect was spotted at the school on Friday, asking students where he could locate Pati.
The father of a student started an online call for “mobilization” against the teacher and demanded his dismissal from the school.
The girl’s father and a known Islamic militant along with four members of Anjorov’s family are among those arrested.
An 11th man was taken into custody on Sunday, a judicial source said, without providing details.
The victim’s father took Patty’s name and gave the school’s address a few days ago in a social media post in which President Emanuel Macron accused him of an Islamic terrorist attack.
The record did not state whether the attacker had any ties to the school or that he acted independently in response to the online campaign.
The Russian embassy in Paris said that Anjarov’s family arrived in France from Chechnya when he was six years old to seek asylum.
Locals in Normandy town of Everex reported that the attacker described him as a low key, stating that he got into fights as a child but in recent years he became increasingly religious.
Friday’s attack was the second of its kind after a trial began last month on the Charlie Hebdo killings.
The magazine re-released the controversial cartoon for trial, and last month a young Pakistani man injured two people with a meat cleaver outside Charlie Hebdo’s former office.
“Doing your job”
On Saturday, hundreds of pupils, teachers, parents and well-wishers entered Patty’s school to lay white roses.
“For the first time, a teacher was attacked for what he teaches,” a co-worker from a neighboring town said that he had only given his first name, Lionel.
According to his school, Pati had given Muslim children the option to leave class before showing cartoons, saying that he did not want his feelings to be hurt.
And Kamal Kabatane, rector of the Mosque of Lyon and a senior Muslim figure, told AFP on Sunday that Patty was only “doing her job” and has been “respectful” in doing so.
Ministers forming France’s defense council were scheduled to meet later on Sunday to discuss the Islamist threat.
A national tribute to Patty is to be held on Wednesday.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)