Joining the historic rally in Paris

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PARIS – This is the first Sunday after the terrorist shootings in Paris. The French government decided to launch a large-scale solidarity rally to show support for the victims of the extremist attacks.

However, one may wonder whether it would be safe to go into with a large crowd. Would it also become the target of terrorist attack?

According to a Parisian with whom this reporter spoke about such concerns, there were a large number of police and even police snipers, and the government had a large-scale mobilization plan in place.

Also, she thought the terrorists would not be interested in attacking the rally because massive murder did not match the ‘signature’ such terrorists have become known for.

She went on to say that we shouldn’t be afraid because that’s exactly what the terrorists wanted, while she also understood that would be easier said than done.

She might not have represented all French people but at least she revealed the thoughts of some French people–to be even braver when facing threats! After all, the historic, massive mobilization throughout the country has been consistent with this mentality.

In the afternoon, I set off from a metro station where the platform was full of people. Five trains passed but I couldn’t get on train at all. One Parisian told me in a text message that he had never experienced such a large crowd before, and expressed that it seemed incredible to him. He could not even reach the place where we were supposed to meet because some roads had been blocked.

I was finally able to board the sixth train that came, but it was extremely crowded. When I got off, a herd of people were moving slowly towards the exit. Since there were so many people, what usually takes around two to three minutes–reaching the exit–took almost 20 minutes.

Then I found myself already standing in the crowd once I reached street level. I walked in an opposite direction of the crowd hoping to find a space so that I could call my friend. However, the phone network did not work at all.

I was standing next to a bus stop at a crossroad while watching the people marching slowly across. There were people of different ages and various races. Many were holding signs with the slogan, “Je suis Charlie,” while some were holding French national flags. Some people also specially decorated their hats with coloured pencils to represent the cartoonists. One lady was wearing a hair clip prettily handcrafted with a row of colourful colour pencils.

The rally was very peaceful. Most of the time, people were just marching forward quietly. There was not much shouting of various slogans. No one used amplifiers. From time to time, the crowd would clap in rhythm and shout, “Charlie! Charlie!” or, “Liberté! Liberté!” On both sides of the marching crowd were those typical Parisian buildings. Some people up there went out to their balconies to cheer for the crowd. Some tried to lead the crowd to clap. Some were playing music to cheer the marching people. Suddenly, there came that most touching eternal classic:

“Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one” –Imagine, John Lennon

I couldn’t help singing along, and I could hear some people around were singing together too. People clapped after the song was over.

Letter by Rickovia Leung