In Brief

French rally in support of free speech after teacher beheading

Thousands attend marches to honour Samuel Paty following killing on Friday

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in cities across France this weekend to pay tribute to a teacher murdered in Paris last week after showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed to his pupils.

Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old history teacher, was decapitated outside his secondary school in a northwestern suburb of the capital on Friday, in what President Emmanuel Macron has described as an “Islamist terrorist attack”. The knife-wielding killer - named as Abdullah Anzorov, an 18-year-old Russian-born man of Chechen descent - was shot dead by police after attacking officers called to the scene. 

Yesterday, demonstrators carrying banners with messages including “no to totalitarianism of thought”, “I am a teacher” and “schools in mourning” gathered in towns and cities including Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux. 

The crowds chanted “freedom of expression, freedom to teach” and sang La Marseillaise, with some waving placards declaring “Je suis Samuel” - an echo of the “Je suis Charlie” slogan that sprung up following the 2015 attack on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

High-profile figures including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and French Prime Minister Jean Castex joined a rally at the Place de la Republique in the capital. Castex later tweeted: “You do not scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France!”

Meanwhile, Macron “chaired a crisis meeting of ministers and security chiefs on Sunday night to discuss action to prevent attacks”, The Telegraph says. The president reportedly told ministers: “Islamists will not sleep peacefully in France. Fear will change sides.”

Following the meeting, the Elysee announced that security will be ramped up at schools and action taken to curb the activities of “organisations and individuals close to radicalised circles”. A national tribute to Paty is to be held on Wednesday, officials added.

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