Parisians voice shock, defiance a week after attacks

AP News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 4:40 PM
Parisians voice shock, defiance a week after attacks

PARIS (AP) — A week after their city was shaken to the core by a bloody series of attacks, Parisians turned out in their thousands Friday to pay tribute to the dead 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 Nov. 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.

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 former French Culture Minister 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 on Nov. 13.

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 will not turn Parisians toward hatred and suspicion.

On the Place de la Republique, which has become a focal point for commemorating the victims, some Parisians joined in a spontaneous dance. Outside the Bataclan music venue, 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.

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Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Paris contributed to this report.