Thousands of people took to the streets of Paris and around France in a mass show of anger against anti-Semitism and intolerance following the slaying of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor.
The wide avenue leading out of Place de la Nation in Paris was a sea of people Wednesday evening. Young and old, rabbis and schoolchildren walked shoulder to shoulder. Some brandished angry banners: “I am Jewish,” read one, “but I’m neither rich, nor a banker, nor do I have a hooked nose.”
Protester Alain Beit is happy about the big turnout — it’s about time, he said.
“I’m Jewish and also I’m gay,” he said. “We’re in the middle of two different kinds of hate — anti-Semitism … but we also feel the hate against the LGBTQ people.”
The march comes nearly a week after the stabbing death of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, 85, in her apartment not far from here. Two men have been arrested in her slaying, which police believe was motivated by anti-Semitism. It is the latest in a string of at times horrific anti-Semitic attacks over the past decade, including a 2015 terrorist strike on a Kosher supermarket. A record number of French Jews have emigrated to Israel in recent years.
Jews and non-Jews marched together. Valerie Bougault walked with a Jewish friend and her son.
“I’m here because it’s absolutely unbelievable in 2018 to have an anti-Semitic … whether it’s done by little crooks, or its ideological, it’s absolutely unbelievable. In France, we do have to make an effort in the schools, in the suburbs, everywhere,” Bougault said.
Interviewed before the march, Jewish Consistory President Joel Mergui says while anti-Semitism hasn’t necessarily gotten worse, attacks and aggressions against Jews continue to grow. It’s serious, he says, that the country hasn’t been able to find a solution to issues like anti-Semitism, radical Islam and terrorism.
Not everyone was welcome at the march. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon made an appearance to jeers from the crowd. Earlier, Jewish leaders said they were not welcome.
The march caps a day that marked another hate crime, as French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to police officer Arnaud Beltram who sacrificed his life in an Islamist attack last Friday — the same day Knoll was killed. Macron, who also attended Knoll’s funeral Wednesday, called her death a barbaric act and vowed to fight anti-Semitism.