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World Leaders Join Thousands For Peace Rally In Paris

ARUN RATH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. Millions of people took to the streets across France today in a show of unity and defiance after the deadly terror attacks that shook Paris last week. The attack on the offices of a satirical publication and a standoff at a kosher supermarket killed 17 people, including three police officers. Police say Islamic militants were responsible for the carnage. The largest demonstration today came in the French capital. Reporter Lauren Frayer started her day with a vantage point atop the city's most iconic landmark.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: From the top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris sprawls before me. The city's grand avenues are closed to traffic as hundreds of thousands of mourners marched through the city.

MATTHEW CHAIN: Arab, Juif, Catholic - everybody are here, and everybody are solidarity. OK. And it's really great sensation. Everybody, like, together for the same way - the peace way. I think it's beautiful.

FRAYER: Matthew Chain was in the crowd streaming past Paris' Bastille. At the head of the march was French president Francois Hollande, alongside relatives of this week's victims. Many linked arms and walked in silence. They were joined by the prime ministers of Britain Israel, Germany and many others. Thousands of police and military flooded the French capital. Public transport was free all day.

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FRAYER: Claire Mays, an American who's lived in Paris for more than 30 years, says the atmosphere was both solemn and resilient.

CLAIRE MAYS: This was a silent march, but what was wonderful was to hear the waves of (chanting) Charlie (clapping), Charlie (clapping). And it would just travel right up the alley.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATORS CHANTING)

FRAYER: That ubiquitous slogan, Je suis Charlie, on banners and t-shirts, in bar and shop windows. One marcher lugged along a giant eight- foot pencil in tribute to slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. The slogan has variations. Jean-Jacque Fourmond wore a badge with some of them.

JEAN-JAQUE FOURMOND: En Francais, Je suis juif, Je suis un policier et Je suis Charlie.

FRAYER: Je suis juif. I am a Jew in solidarity with Jews killed at a kosher supermarket Friday. Je suis un policier, for police officers killed in the terror attacks. Dozens of world leaders flew in to attend crisis talks with Hollande and his interior minister. Among them - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who told ABC news from Paris that he believes the West is at war with those who pervert Islam.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, I certainly think that we are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who would corrupt the Islamic faith in the way that they do to try to justify their terrorist actions. So that's who we are at war with.

FRAYER: There are fears of a backlash against Muslims. France has the largest Muslim community in Western Europe - 10 percent of the population here. There have been attacks and vandalism on some mosques across France. Muslim leaders around the world have condemned the Paris siege. For most French people, this is about the country coming together.

FLORIAN CHEVOPPE: There aren't Muslims or Jews. There's just French people.

FRAYER: Marcher Florian Chevoppe says he hopes some good can come out of tragedy.

CHEVOPPE: I think there's been a before and there will be an after. And I think France has changed. I think there's more solidarity. I think people are more proud of being French.

FRAYER: Many say this was the strongest show of unity in France's streets since the end of World War II. Marchers today say they're determined to stay united in the face of attacks that could otherwise divide their country. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.