Sea of demonstrators march for unity in Paris

BY and    | Updated: Jan 11, 2015 at 3:56 PM
A man holds a giant pencil as he takes part in a Hundreds of thousands of French citizens solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris January 11, 2015. French citizens will be joined by dozens of foreign leaders, among them Arab and Muslim representatives, in a march on Sunday in an unprecedented tribute to this week's victims following the shootings by gunmen at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the killing of a police woman in Montrouge, and the hostage taking at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes.      REUTERS/Stephane Mahe (FRANCE  - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A man holds a giant pencil as he takes part in a unity rally on the streets of Paris on Jan. 11. Credit: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Over one million people poured into the streets of Paris on Sunday in a march to honor the victims of three days of violence which began with the massacre of 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

A total of 17 people were killed in what has been described as the worst terror attack on French soil in decades.

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 11:  Demonstrators make their way along Boulevrd Voltaire in a unity rally in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people are expected to converge in central Paris for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Demonstrators make their way along Boulevrd Voltaire in a unity rally in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on Jan. 11 in Paris, France. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The rally for unity is said to be the largest demonstration in French history.

A ministry spokesman said between 1.2 and 1.6 million people participated in Paris, and that 2.5 million marched in other cities across France, Reuters reported.

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 11:  Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people are expected to converge in central Paris for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

World leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas join French President Francois Hollande (center) at the solidarity march on Jan. 11 in Paris. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

World leaders from across Europe as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories linked arms with President Francois Hollande of France at the head of the march, which began at Place de la République in central Paris.

“Paris is today the capital of the world. Our entire country will rise up and show its best side,” Hollande said in a statement.

> on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people have converged in central Paris  for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande led the march and was joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman.

A demonstrator shows solidarity with the victims of what is being called the worst terror attack on French soil in decades on Jan. 11 in Paris. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The rally was held to show “the power, the dignity of the French people who will be shouting out of love of freedom and tolerance,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Saturday.

“Journalists were killed because they defended freedom. Policemen were killed because they were protecting you. Jews were killed because they were Jewish,” he said. “The indignation must be absolute and total — not for three days only, but permanently.”

Amid a heavy security presence — which included over 2,000 police officers and soldiers — marchers waving French flags and carrying oversized pencils made their way down Boulevard Voltaire in the city’s 11th district.

Police snipers were stationed on rooftops and security officials searched city sewers ahead of the march, Reuters reported. Underground subway stations were closed down along the route.

FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-DEMO

A woman holds a cardboard sign reading “Je suis Charlie, je suis Juive, je suis Musulmane, je suis Francaise,” meaning “I am Charlie, I am Jewish, I am a Muslim, I am French” during a unity rally in Paris on Jan. 11. Credit: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday evening a German newspaper that reprinted satirical cartoons by Charlie Hedbo in a show of solidarity was hit by arsonists, raising tensions ahead of the march.

Two people were arrested for throwing an incendiary device into the building of the Hamburger Morgenpost daily, Reuters reported. No one was in the building at the time of the firebombing.

Hamburg police said it was “too soon” to tell if there was a connection between the arson attack and the newspaper’s Charlie Hebdo tribute, Agence France-Presse reported.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  The National Gallery is lit in the blue, white and red colours of the national flag of France in tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on January 11, 2015 in London, England. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman.  (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

The National Gallery is lit in the blue, white and red colors of the French flag in tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris as seen on Jan. 11 in London, England. Credit: Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Elsewhere in Europe, solidarity marches were held in cities from Berlin to Brussels. In London, iconic landmarks including the Tower Bridge and National Gallery were lit up with the colors of the French flag, as a tribute to the victims.

Some 20,000 people march on January 11, 2015 in Brussels in tribute to the 17 victims of the three-day killing spree in France that ended on January 9. The killings began on January 7 with an assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris that saw two brothers massacre 12 people, including some of the country's best-known cartoonists, and the hostage-taking of a Jewish supermarket on the eastern fringes of the capital, which killed four people. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND        (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Some 20,000 people march on January 11, 2015 in Brussels in tribute to the 17 victims of the three-day killing spree in France that ended on January 9. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

In the days following the terror attacks in Paris, demonstrators have gathered in city streets across the globe in defense of freedom of the press.

From Barcelona to Hong Kong, many carried signs that said “Je suis Charlie.”

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