The leaders of many countries marched at the head of the demonstration, but in the midst of the crowd we could not see them. The French government had decided not to impose any procedure on the gathering, and we milled and pushed forward among police vans and TV broadcasting trucks without any direction. There was no loudspeaker system telling us what to do or how to feel. From time to time, a wave of applause broke out, like a wind-carried ripple. The “Marseillaise” was sung, not with the vigor of triumphant nationalism but quietly, reverently, like a hymn.
There were flags of many nations, Australian and Albanian and rainbow L.G.B.T. There were orange stars and green stripes that I couldn’t identify and many tricolores. People converged and crammed into the seven roads that lead to the Place de la République. At the center, Marianne, enormous and cast in bronze, wearing the Phrygian cap from the barricades, an olive branch in one hand, the other resting on a tablet inscribed with the Rights of Man. Around the base are listed the dates of revolution—1789, 1830, 1848, 1870—giving reason to the sword that she wears in her belt.
Dozens of young men had climbed up onto her flanks, waving flags from Pakistan and Turkey and Egypt. I saw the Kurdish sun and a portrait of Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader who has been in prison, since 1999, in Turkey. The young guys called out to the older, perhaps more conservative crowd, “Vous êtes qui?” (“Who are you?”), and a few people called back, “Charlie!” (Read more.)
Some commentary from the American Conservative. Share