More than 700,000 people took to streets across France Saturday in a massive show of national unity and solidarity with the victims of the deadly assault on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the interior minister said.
Large marches were held in cities including Paris, Orleans, Marseille, Nice, Pau, Toulouse and Nantes, to commemorate the victims of this week's violence.
The marchers held banners that read "I am against racism", "Unity", or "I am Charlie."
"700,000 people have marched" in cities around France, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters on the eve of a huge Paris rally planned due to be attended by a string of world leaders.
Saturday's rallies come ahead of a march in Paris expected to draw up to a million people on Sunday in which French President Francois Hollande will be joined by amany world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Agence France Presse reports:
In the southern city of Toulouse, police said around 80,000 people took part in a march, with the "enormous" procession stretching up to two kilometres (1.2 miles), according to an AFP journalist.
"Live together, free, equal and in solidarity," read the banner behind which at least 30,000 people also marched in the western city of Nantes.
In Marseille, 45,000 people expressed similar sentiments with a rally banner that said "For democracy, equality, freedom, let's fight fascism".
Individual marchers held up placards with the words "Not Afraid!"
In Pau, a further 30,000 to 40,000 people staged a silent march with school pupils leading the way holding a banner emblazoned with the words: "We are all Charlie".
"It's a great popular movement... it's beautiful and significant, infinitely precious," the southwestern city's mayor Francois Bayrou told AFP.
The rallies come ahead of a march expected to draw up to a million people on Sunday in which French President Francois Hollande will be joined by a host of world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
The media landscape is changing fast
Our news team is changing too as we work hard to bring you the news that matters most.
Change is coming. And we've got it covered.
Please donate to our 2019 Mid-Year Campaign today.
— itele (@itele) January 10, 2015
— Aurelien Lipiansky (@Orelip) January 10, 2015