‘La Marseillaise’ rings out in show of support in US
French expatriates in Washington and New York sang their national anthem in a spine-tingling and spontaneous show of raw emotion Saturday, a day after terror attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people.
Crowds of mostly French people milled around Lafayette Square in the capital, adjacent to the White House and a deeply symbolic place — named after the famous Frenchman celebrated in the United States for his role in the war of independence.
Authorities had allowed the French Embassy to hold the somber gathering at the park, which is under perennial tight security because of its proximity to the presidential mansion.
Just like a similar show of support in New York, many who turned out said they indirectly knew one or more of the victims from Friday’s bloodshed in Paris, which has been claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.
“France is not a race, France is not a religion, France is not an ethnic group, France is a will to live together,” French Ambassador Gerard Araud told hundreds of people at the vigil.
The predominantly French crowd peacefully sang “La Marseillaise” but was otherwise gravely silent, speaking in hushed tones.
“France is in mourning, I did not sleep at night. Being so far from Paris, it is a pleasure to see so many people gathered to say that France is still standing,” said student Matei Jovanovic.
There were similar touching scenes in New York — like Washington no stranger to terror — where up to 2,000 people gathered at Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
Waving French flags, the crowd broke out into stirring renditions of “La Marseillaise,” followed by warm applause.
French expatriates were joined by American well-wishers, alternately standing in somber silence, hugging each other, and then singing the national anthem.
The US flag stood at half-staff in the park, as it did across New York, and some held placards reading, “Liberte, egalite, fraternite” — the French motto — and “not afraid.”
Others displayed posters in memory of recent terror attacks in Beirut and Baghdad.
“It seems like a time we need to spend together, not alone,” said 21-year-old student Sebastien Jarquin, who is half-French, half-American. “We’ll stay as long as necessary. I put all my plans aside today.”
Panos Vagenas, a scientist at Yale University, added: “I came to show support for France and the French people and indignation with what’s happening in the world with terrorism.”
A giant piece of paper was taped to the ground on which mourners had written messages of support in French and English, such as, “Stay strong Paris we love you.”
An American artist also came to the park to make an art installation — a wall of disparate colored roses, painted in the colors of the French flag with the sign “J’etre humain” (I am human) written underneath.