“Nous sommes tous Parisiens — Today, we are all Parisians, we are all French,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., told a crowd of several hundred people gathered in front of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon.
Most of those in the crowd had just marched the mile and a half from the Alliance Française on N. 1st Street to honor the 129 victims of terror attacks late Friday in the French capital. Some carried candles, some French flags, fluttering in the breeze. Others held letter-sized peace symbols resembling the Eiffel Tower. Most of the marchers have a friend, relative or some emotional connection to France. “It’s really hard to be away from home when something like this happens,” said Kimberly Postec of St. Paul, who is from Nantes, France.
She learned of the bloodshed in Paris late Friday and spent the night glued to the television for updates.
“You feel bad just going to sleep, not knowing if your friends are OK,” she said.
Marc Gendry of Golden Valley was there with his sons Xavier, 11, and Samuel, 8. “It’s important for them to know what’s happening,” he said. “To feel the emotion.” Gendry lived in Paris for 10 years and still has a nephew there. Sunday’s march was the first he’s been to in the 15 years he’s lived in the Twin Cities.
Minneapolis City Council Member Linea Palmisano marched with her son, Charlie, and her husband, Matthew Hitchin, whose sister lives in Lyon, France. “Despite the amount of bad things that happen, with Paris, it’s a place where we can all see this happening to us,” Palmisano said.
“I just want to be here, because I can’t be there,” said Valerie Metzger of St. Paul, who said she’s from the Bordeaux region of France.
Ellison spoke from the steps of the basilica when all of the marchers had arrived. “I need to be where the people are, honoring the first responders who tried to save lives in Paris,” he said. “… These terrorists are insane and demonic. The reason there’s a refugee crisis is because the refugees are fleeing these maniacs. These people are very angry at Muslims who don’t agree with them.”
“Vive la France!” Ellison shouted and the crowd echoed back, “Vive la France!”
Moments later, the crowd began singing the French national anthem (which also was played the last two nights to open concerts by the Minnesota Orchestra). Louis Sudheimer of St. Paul, carrying a French flag, shouted to get the crowd’s attention. “I would like to say that each and every one of us should reach out to every Muslim we see and say thanks for being in this country.”
Inside the basilica, the sanctuary was nearly full. There were songs, Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers by clergy from each faith.
Christina Selander Bouzouina, director of the Alliance Française and honorary consul of France, spoke of a 36-year-old Parisian who was killed, leaving his widow to tell their children, ages 5 and 2, “something no parent should have to tell a child,” she said.
“Not in Paris, not in Beirut, not in Baghdad.”