Andrew joined the march on Sunday afternoon, January 11 with more than one million others marching in Paris from place de la Republique. Media say the last time that many people marched in Paris was in 1944 at the French liberation from Nazi Germany.
For the first hour, there was not much movement forward, there were so many people, there were so many leaders from countries everywhere ahead, that at first, it was a million people standing together. A girl with a violin got onto someone’s shoulders and started to tune up her instrument. Then she played “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. People around sang with her. It was a nice moment. There were waves of other people starting up the anthem again and there was clapping. On the balconies of the surrounding white stone buildings, people stood and watched the crowd and waved. There were flags and banners and a lot of pencils. Women had many pencils stuck in their chignons. Helicopters circled overhead.
For the most part, people seemed relieved and glad to be there with others surrounding them, being together, showing support, joined in unity, sharing the belief that it is important to show up and be a part of the response. The mood of the afternoon was a sense of gratitude for those around, and perhaps an underlying relief that dissipates fear and anxiety when so many join together with others reinforcing the values of freedom of expression and values of a democratic society. It took 4 hours to march from the Republique to place de la Nation.
As the sun went down on the crowd of millions, the weather turned chilly. Many were stopping into cafes to warm up and order a drink. There were 3 rows of people trying to order. The waiters were snapping out coffees and drinks as fast as they could. Back out in the boulevard Voltaire, the sky was vivid pink and the pace was picking up. At the end, people went their own way home.
Earlier in the day, Andrew and I had walked through the the jardin du Luxembourg looking at the pear and apple orchard, the urns along the balustraded terraces surrounding the water basin empty now. In the middle of a grassy lawn, was the 1870 model of the statue of liberty my youngest had liked when we were in the garden last week; she had recognized liberty. Afterward, Andrew and I went to the Odeon theatre, to the ornamental cafe upstairs to have coffee.