Thousands join rallies in Paris to remember decapitated teacher

People gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris yesterday, to pay homage to Mr Samuel Paty, who was decapitated two days ago by an attacker for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.
People gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris yesterday, to pay homage to Mr Samuel Paty, who was decapitated two days ago by an attacker for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to his pupils. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Thousands of people gathered in central Paris yesterday to pay homage to a teacher decapitated two days ago for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.

Demonstrators held aloft posters declaring: "No to totalitarianism of thought" and "I am a teacher" in memory of the victim, Mr Samuel Paty.

One rally took place at the Place de la Republique in Paris, a traditional site of protest where around 1.5 million people demonstrated in 2015 following a deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices by Islamist gunmen. Rallies were also expected in Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.

An 11th person was detained yesterday, police said, as the authorities investigated the murder of Mr Paty, a history teacher who was beheaded by a suspected Islamist in an attack that stunned the country.

Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were attacked in a mass killing five years ago, was among groups organising a tribute to Mr Paty in Paris in the afternoon. The 47-year-old teacher was killed last Friday outside his school in a Paris suburb by an 18-year-old attacker.

The assailant, named as Abdullakh A, was of Chechen origin and born in Russia. He was shot dead by police soon after the attack.

Sources close to the investigation have said that the assailant shouted "Allahu Akbar" before the police opened fire.

Witnesses said he was spotted at the school last Friday afternoon asking pupils where he could find Mr Paty.

Earlier this month, the teacher had shown his pupils cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering a number of Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

The government has portrayed the killing as an attack on the heart of French values.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and politicians from across the spectrum were due to attend yesterday's commemoration in central Paris.

A national tribute will be organised on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron's office said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government was working on a strategy to better protect teachers from threats.

Mr Paty had been the target of an angry campaign on social media before the attack.

"I want teachers to know that, after this ignoble act, the whole country is behind them," Mr Castex told the Journal du Dimanche in an interview. "This tragedy affects each and every one of us because, through this teacher, it is the Republic that was attacked."

There were no details of the 11th person to be detained in connection with the killing.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'Thousands join rallies in Paris to remember decapitated teacher'. Print Edition | Subscribe