Thousands silently demonstrated Monday evening in Paris to pay tribute to the four victims of a shooting attack at a Jewish school in southwestern France.
A man riding a motorbike opened fire Monday morning outside the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse, where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day, before fleeing. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his 4- and 5-year-old sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack.
Members of Jewish organizations and anti-racist movements, as well as politicians, gathered between Place de la République and Place de la Bastille for the march organized by the French Union of Jewish Students. The crowd made up of many youths held many French flags and most elected officials wore their tricolor scarf, the symbol of the French Republic. Marchers also displayed a banner reading: “In France, Blacks, Jews and Arabs are killed.”
Earlier Monday evening, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his socialist rival François Hollande, and several other top French politicians attended a memorial ceremony at the Nazareth Synagogue in Paris, where psalms were recited.
Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday afternoon in Toulouse that he would suspend his reelection campaign until at least Wednesday. “This is a horrible attack that cannot go unpunished. Every possible means will be engaged to stop this criminal,” Sarkozy said. “Our country had never known a shooting inside a school. The whole republic is mobilized to face this tragedy.”
Other candidates, including Hollande and right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen, also said they would suspend their campaigns.
A moment of silence was observed in all French schools Tuesday morning.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Tuesday that the gunman may have been filming the attack with a camera attached to his chest. He said that French police are searching the Internet to see if a video of the attack has been posted online, according to reports.
French police also said Tuesday that they believe the attacks were carried out by French soldiers suspected of being neo-Nazis, who were dismissed from the military several years ago.
Forensic tests found that the weapon used in the attack at the Ozar-Hatorah school was the same one used in a pair of fatal shooting attacks last week targeting off-duty French soldiers in and near Toulouse. The shootings, which also were committed by a gunman on a motorbike, left three soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. The soldiers who were shot were of North African or Caribbean background.