Over one million gather for historic Paris march of defiance and sorrow

Over one million gather for historic Paris march of defiance and sorrow

Crowds poured into Paris today for a march expected to unite more than a million people and dozens of world leaders in a historic display of defiance against terrorism.

In an unprecedented show of unity, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will both be among those attending the rally to honour 17 victims of three days of bloodshed that included Jews and a Muslim police officer among the dead.

Under clear blue skies, emotions were already running high in the shell-shocked City of Light, with many people from all walks of life already in tears as they began to come together under the banner of freedom of speech and liberty.

Lassina Traore, a 34-year-old French-born Muslim from the Ivory Coast, gently placed 17 candles at the foot of the iconic monument of the Place de la Republique, heaped with tributes to the dead.

The march is "a real sign of how strong France is. It shows that France is strong when she is united against these people," said the consultant.

"I want to show that we're not scared of the extremists. I want to defend freedom of expression," said 70-year-old Jacqueline Saad-Rouana.

The families of those who died in the three blood-soaked days that shook France to its core will rub shoulders with royalty and heads of state within an iron ring of security.

Defences were beefed up in a jittery Paris still reeling from the Islamist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket, with thousands of extra troops and police deployed to guard the march and snipers positioned along the route.

"I have no doubt that millions of citizens will come to express their love of liberty, their love of fraternity," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a poignant rally yesterday near where a gunman killed four hostages at the supermarket.

In a foretaste of the demonstration, more than 700,000 people poured onto the streets of cities across France yesterday, many carrying banners reading "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie), the tribute to Charlie Hebdo that has been the global rallying point in the wake of the slaughter.

Many brandished pens to symbolise freedom of expression after the magazine was targeted for its controversial cartoons.

Along with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, the king and queen of Jordan will be present and a host of top European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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