The French Interior Ministry said Sunday evening that today’s Paris rally for unity against extremism is the largest demonstration in France’s history.
Calling the rally “unprecedented,” the ministry says the demonstrators are so numerous they spread beyond the official march route, making them impossible to count.
French media are estimating that up to 3 million are taking part, reportedly more than the numbers who took to Paris streets when the WW II Allies liberated the city from the Nazis. Demonstrations were also held in cities around France and around the world.
Leaders from more than 40 nations were among those at the march Sunday, organized to show unity against extremism and to honor the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre – seen as an attack on free speech and freedom of the press.
But Reporters Without Borders says many of the heads of state and high-ranking ministers participating in Sunday’s rally represent countries that have highly questionable records when it comes to free speech — from the suppression of demonstrations to the imprisonment of journalists.
“We have to show solidarity with ‘Charlie’ but without forgetting all the ‘Charlies’ around the world,” said Christophe Deloire, the Reporters Without Borders’ secretary general.
“It would be intolerable if representatives of states that silence journalists in their countries take advantage of the day’s emotion in order to improve their international image.”
This article originally appeared on Common Dreams.