Home News Thousands rally across France in tribute to teacher beheaded in terror attack

Thousands rally across France in tribute to teacher beheaded in terror attack

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Composition of photographs of teacher who was beheaded in terrorist attack and protests in France paying tribute to him
Many have understood the murder to be an attack on French statehood and its values (Pictures: Getty)

Thousands of demonstrators today gathered across France to pay tribute to a teacher who was beheaded by a terrorist for showing pupils cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Samuel Paty, 47, was decapitated on Friday evening after he is said to have shown a class, at College du Bois d’Aulne in Conflans-Saint-Honorine near Paris, controversial caricatures of the Prophet from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

An 18-year-old man – a refugee from the Russian republic of Chechnya – who attacked the history and geography teacher, was shot dead by police after firing an airgun at them.

Anti-terrorism officials said the man waited outside the school and asked pupils which teacher had shown the Prophet to them, before repeatedly stabbing Mr Paty. He then beheaded the teacher while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, or ‘God is Great’, according to witnesses.

Protestors hold 'Je Suis Prof' placards during an anti-terrorism vigil at Place de La Republique for the death of Samuel Paty who was murdered in a terrorist attack in the suburbs of Paris on October 18, 2020 in Paris, France.
Vigils have been held across France today (Picture: Getty Images)
History and geography teacher Samuel Paty, 47, who has been decapitated outside a school near Paris after receiving death threats for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson.
History and Geography teacher Samuel Paty was fatally attacked close to the school on Friday (Picture: Rex)

He then posted photographs of the victim to a Twitter account, under the name Abdoulakh A, saying: ‘I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down’.

On Sunday, thousands took to the streets in tribute to Mr Paty in Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux and other major cities – many of which are under a government-imposed 9pm curfew.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex stood with citizens, associations and unions demonstrating in the capital’s Place de la Republique, in support of freedom of speech and in memory of the teacher.

Some held placards reading ‘I am Samuel’ that echoed the ‘I am Charlie’ rallying cry, after the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo.

A moment’s silence was held across the square, broken by applause and a rendition of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Hundreds of people gather on Republique square during a demonstration Sunday Oct. 18, 2020 in Paris. Demonstrations around France have been called in support of freedom of speech and to pay tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded near Paris after discussing caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad with his class. Samuel Paty was beheaded on Friday by a 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee who was shot dead by police.
Thousands of people gathered at Republique square in Paris (Picture: Getty Images)
People attend a rally in memory of Samuel Paty, the French teacher who was beheaded on the streets of the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine on October 18, 2020 in Paris, France .
Protestors were dispersed ahead of the 9pm curfew in many major French cities (Picture: Getty Images)
Thousands pack Place de la Republique for an anti-terrorism vigil for the murdered teacher Samuel Paty who was killed in a terrorist attack in the suburbs of Paris on October 18, 2020 in Paris, France.
Many demonstrators wore face masks as they gathered waving the French flag (Picture: Getty Images)

Many parents also left flowers at the school’s gates and said their children were devastated and ‘terrorised by the violence of such an act’ on their teacher.

Police have been investigating whether the killer acted alone or with accomplices and have arrested 11 people in relation to the attack, including at least four of his relatives and a minor.

The parents of two of Mr Paty’s students were also held in custody overnight, including a father who had lodged a formal complaint about the teacher’s actions and called for protests.

Anti-terrorism minister Jean-Francois Ricard said a murder investigation with a suspected terrorist motive has been launched.

He said that although the killer was not known to anti-terrorism police, his half-sister had joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014. Mr Ricard said he did not know her name or where she is currently located.

Muslim leaders have condemned the horrific killing, which has been perceived by many as an attack on French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of expression and religion.

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 18: A protestor holds a copy of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during an anti-terrorism vigil at Place de La Republique for the murdered school teacher Samuel Paty who was killed in a terrorist attack in the suburbs of Paris on October 18, 2020 in Paris, France. Thousands of people turned out to show solidarity and express their support for freedom of speech in the wake of Friday's attack. France launched an anti-terrorism investigation after the October 16 incident where police shot the 18 year-old assailant who decapitated the history-geography teacher for having shown a caricature of prophet Mohamed as an example of freedom of speech at the College Bois d'Aulne middle-school. (Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)
A protestor holds a copy of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Picture: Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 18: Flowers are laid for the murdered school teacher Samuel Paty during an anti-terrorism vigil at Place de La Republique on October 18, 2020 in Paris, France. Thousands of people turned out to show solidarity and express their support for freedom of speech in the wake of Friday's attack. France launched an anti-terrorism investigation after the October 16 incident where police shot the 18 year-old assailant who decapitated the history-geography teacher for having shown a caricature of prophet Mohamed as an example of freedom of speech at the College Bois d'Aulne middle-school. (Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images) (Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)
Many parents have said their children are devastated (Picture: Getty Images)

The imam of a Bordeaux mosque told France Inter radio: ‘Every day that passes without incident we give thanks. We are between hammer and anvil.

‘It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness.’

A group of imams in the Lyon region held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss what the group called ‘the appalling assassination of our compatriot by a terrorist who in the name of an uncertain faith committed the irreparable’.

US President Donald Trump was one of many global leaders to condemn the attack and referred to the killing on Saturday night during a political rally in Janesville, Wisconsin.

He told the crowd: ‘On behalf of the United States, I’d like to extend my really sincere condolences to a friend of mine, President (Emmanuel) Macron of France, where they just yesterday had a vicious, vicious Islamic terrorist attack.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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