Hundreds of people — some French, many not — crowded into the lobby of Buckhead Tower at Lenox Square on Sunday morning, Nov. 15, to show solidarity with France after the coordinated Islamic State terrorist attacks that killed at least 129 people two nights earlier in Paris.
Many members of the Jewish community, including leaders from the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta Chapter and Israeli Deputy Consul General Ron Brummer, attended the somber event, organized by the French Consulate General and held in the building that houses it.
“We know how attentive the French community is to the needs of the Jewish community and Israel,” said AJC Atlanta Regional Director Dov Wilker, who noted that an AJC delegation met with French Consul General Denis Barbet earlier in the week of the terrorist attacks.
“We appreciate them standing with us, and we stand with them,” AJC Atlanta President Greg Averbuch said.
Barbet, who insisted that he spoke not as a government official but only as a French citizen, referred in his remarks to the January terrorist killings at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris. He said he had hoped that the march through Midtown Atlanta on Jan. 11 in response to those attacks would be the last time such a gathering would be necessary.
“We are all journalists. We are all policemen. We are all Jews,” Barbet said. “We are simply French.”
Barbet spoke in French and English. The rally’s other two speakers, French Foreign Trade Adviser Dominique Lemoine and Michèle Olivères, stuck with French, with one exception: Lemoine closed his remarks by declaring, “We are not afraid.”
A sign in the crowd reading “Pas peur” (not afraid) echoed that thought. Other signs supported France and criticized the terrorists, and artist Florence Beauredon displayed a painting created in response to the slaughter Friday night, Nov. 13.
Most of the carnage occurred at the Bataclan theater, which had been owned by Jewish brothers until two months ago and had long faced protests for hosting many pro-Israel events. The American band performing that night, the Eagles of Death Metal, had played in Tel Aviv in July.
“We know all too well that attacks don’t end with the Jewish community, and here we were able to see that they were attacking a democratic way of life,” Wilker said.
“France is one of our closest allies in the world,” Brummer said, and, like Israel, is facing the “radical Islamic cancer.”
“We hope Europe’s leaders realize it’s time to fight this cancer by all means possible,” he said.
Barbet said France recognizes it must wage a war to preserve a society devoted to diversity, liberty and openness. It will be a long fight, he said, “and we won’t give up.”