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One week after attacks, defiant Parisians honour victims

© Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP | A man lights a candle in front of the La Casa Nostra restaurant in Paris, one of the sites targeted in last week’s attacks, on November 20, 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-11-21

A week after their city was shaken to the core by a series of deadly terror attacks, Parisians took to streets and cafés in the thousands Friday to honour the victims and express defiance at those who would try to challenge the French way of life.

Many placed candles among the flowers stacked outside the Paris attack sites, while others held hands and reflected on their city's losses. Some chose to sing and dance, raising their glasses to the victims who one week earlier had been enjoying a Friday night out when the attackers struck.

With France under a state of emergency, most demonstrations and large gatherings have been banned in Paris since the November 13 attacks. A gathering at France's oldest mosque to show inter-community solidarity was canceled Friday because of security fears.

But Parisians spontaneously came together outside the restaurants, cafes and concert hall hit in the attacks – as they have all week – to leave flowers, light candles or hold quiet vigils.

"I'm still reeling, because these are the neighborhoods where we young people go out a lot, places we know well," said student Sophie Garcon as she looked at tributes left outside the Le Carillon bar, where gunmen sprayed automatic weapons fire.

In all, 130 people died and more than 350 were injured when gunmen and suicide bombers attacked cafes and restaurants in Paris and the national soccer stadium. The attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group, were the deadliest violence in decades and have left the city profoundly shaken.

The army has deployed 6,500 soldiers to the Paris region to help protect streets, train stations and landmark tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.

"There's a feeling of insecurity, even though there are police everywhere," Garcon said. "In France, we have a tendency to think that we're not a country at war because there's not a war on our territory. But France is at war elsewhere in the world ... and now it's here, in the city of Paris."

Khaled and Abdallah Saadi, whose two sisters were killed at the Belle Equipe bar, were among the mourners paying their respects there Friday. Halima and Hodda Saadi were celebrating Halima's 36th birthday with friends and family when the gunmen struck, killing them and nine other people.

‘Paris will always be Paris’

The city's mood was subdued Friday afternoon, the weather wet and grim. But French artists and cultural figures urged people to respond to the tragedy with an outpouring of "noise and light."

Dozens of artists, writers, musicians and other cultural figures, including singer Charles Aznavour, journalist Anne Sinclair and Arab World Institute President Jack Lang, urged people to turn on their lights, light candles and play music at 9:20 p.m., around the time the attacks began a week earlier.

In a letter published in the Huffington Post, they said the killers' attack on "culture and freedom" should unite people of all races, faiths and backgrounds. They hoped the gesture would show "that culture will continue to shine out and to burnish the light of hope and fraternity."

That hope was echoed in many of the hand-written signs and notes left outside the attack sites: defiant messages of love, vows that the slaughter would not turn Parisians toward hatred and suspicion.

On the Place de la République, which has become a focal point for commemorating the victims, some Parisians joined in a spontaneous dance.

City of Paris information screens nearby beamed: “Paris will always be Paris” alongside an address for a website with goings on in the capital this weekend replacing the usual traffic and weather messages.

“These Parisian neighbourhoods that were hit are truly magical: lively, cosmopolitan, open to all the cultures of the world,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

“They have always been a successful melting-pot, and they will remain so,” she told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

In the ethnically-diverse, up-and-coming 10th and 11th districts of Paris where the attacks took place, many of the usual watering holes popular with young people, artists and media types were buzzing with chatter and music on Friday.

At the Barometre cafe one block from the Bataclan music hall, the manager was busy taking orders and getting irritated by the media attention. A sign on the Bataclan still advertised the Eagles of Death Metal concert during which attackers killed scores of people.

“We have quite a lot of people tonight, but we prefer not to talk about what happened. We want to stop thinking about it and that’s why we’ve got a musician playing tonight,” said the manager Joyce Kervran.

Outside the Bataclan, where 89 people died, one woman played a piano while another sang along.

At Le Carillon, a note posted on the wall by the bar's owners offered "profound condolences" to those who lost loved ones, thanked people for their support, and urged unity.

"Courage to you all. Let's stay united in sorrow, but also in hope for happier - and always fraternal - days," it said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2015-11-21

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