PARIS - With flowers, music and a peace march, France paid tribute to the 130 people who were killed in a string of bombings and shootings two years ago.
President Emmanuel Macron paid homage to those who died at each of six sites targeted by Islamist terrorists on a balmy Friday evening, two years ago. He stood alongside Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and former President Francois Hollande as the names of the victims were read out.
The commemorations were marked by a surprise performance by members of The Eagles of Death Metal, the U.S. rock band that had been performing at the Bataclan concert hall when assailants stormed in and a bloodbath ensued.
The attacks also targeted restaurants, bars and a soccer stadium outside the capital in the second, major terrorist incident in the Paris area that year, following a January 2015 attack on a newspaper and Jewish supermarket that left 17 people dead.
A year later, a July 14 attack in the southern city of Nice killed 86 people and injured hundreds.
A crowd of mourners and journalists gather in front of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, Nov. 11, 2017. (L. Bryant / VOA)
French authorities only recently lifted a state of emergency, put in place after the Bataclan attacks. In its place is tough new counter-terrorism legislation.
Thousands of soldiers continue to patrol the streets, and authorities say 13 terrorist attacks have been foiled this year alone.
The attacks have left other victims: mainstream Muslims who say they are unfairly stigmatized as potential extremists. Several dozen staged a peace march Monday in Paris, posing for photos and singing France's national anthem.
Standing outside the Bataclan, 34-year old marcher Yusuf Bokashap says Islam is a religion of peace. He is just a normal person, he says, who has friends who are Jewish and Catholic.
Sfia Zraa, 18, travelled from Brussels to join the Paris march, Nov. 11, 2017. (L. Bryant / VOA)
Eighteen-year-old Safia Zraa is one of several marchers who traveled from Brussels, a city also targeted by terrorists last year.
Zraa says there are racists who consider Muslims as terrorists, and look at her in a mean way. Zraa says she does not know how things can change.
Jewish writer and activist Marek Halter helped organize the march.
"Only the mobilization of a billion Muslims around the world can help stop the terror."
Jewish writer and activist Market Halter, right, helped organize the march in Paris, Nov. 11, 2017. (L. Bryant / VOA)
Halter says he believes the power of mass protests can help defeat Islamist extremism, like it helped to defeat Communism.
Halter is not discouraged that Monday's march was so small.
"This is the beginning. We have to begin somewhere."
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