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Nostalgia and scepticism of calls for unity at Paris Charlie Hebdo march

media A demonstrator holds a giant pencil at the Place de la Republique in Paris … Sarah Elzas

An unprecedented number of people took to the streets of Paris Sunday afternoon, responding to a call for national unity to mourn the deaths of 17 people in terrorist attacks this week. Many held signs with the now-familiar term "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie), in reference to the massacre on Wednesday at the offices of the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. The march brought out nostalgia in a certain number of people.

Jacques Perrin remembers reading the previous incarnation of Charlie Hebdo, called Hara Kiri, when he was younger.

"It was a crazy, crazy newspaper, with many foolish things in it," he says. But he was never shocked by it, and he admired it for pushing back against the powerful.

RPT FRA: voices from the Charlie Hebdo march 15/01/2015 - by Sarah Elzas Listen

Christian Schorgen says it offered a new way of expression through caricatures. His wife, Colette, says Hara Kiri helped her generation rebel.

"We were raised in pretty formal families, so we loved them," she says. Its irreverence, decried by her parents, was why she was drawn to it.

She would like to see the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo motivate young people today. Life in France is difficult for them, she says, "they have no work, life is not great. And they need something to hold on to."

Younger people were out in the streets on Sunday, many holding home-made signs.
But not everyone was optimistic.

With a group of friends, Emilie, 29, unfurled a large sheet inscribed with the words "you call for unity, but you divide us".

She worries that leaders will use calls for unity to push through measures that might not have been passed otherwise.

"They will call for this unity to pass new law which will be against democracy, against free expression, just what happened in US after 9/11," she says.

The sign was quickly taken down, after protests from the crowd, which Emilie says was not unexpected.

People are emotional, she says, "so they cannot talk really rationally."

Annie, 65, came to the march looking for such messages though.

She shares the same concerns. And yet, she was also heartened by the spontaneous gatherings at Place de la Republique on Wednesday night right after the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

"That was beautiful," she says. "But it was of their own initiative."

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