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Parisians Strive For Normal; Don't Want Attacks To Defeat Them


A year ago, on the morning of January 7, gunmen burst into the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris, France, and began shooting. The siege lasted for three days, with more killings on the street and in a kosher supermarket. It seemed like Paris' own 9/11 - that is, until last November, when attackers linked to ISIS killed 130 people in Paris. We reached out to Sylvie Kauffmann, the editorial director for the French newspaper Le Monde. She told me the mood in Paris is somber these days.

SYLVIE KAUFFMANN: It's the kind of life we have now in Paris. And at the same time, people know that they have to continue living normally. So we're in this, you know, strange mood that we know the danger is there, but we don't want to be defeated.

GREENE: You say it's the kind of life that you have to live now. And I'm really struck. You know, the French government is trying to make constitutional changes, something similar to the USA Patriot Act that was passed after 9/11 in this country. And there has been some criticism from politicians saying it's an overreach by the government, and individual rights might be threatened. But it sounds like a majority of people in France are very supportive of this kind of move.

KAUFFMANN: Yes. Politically, there's a very big debate. It's not a kind of debate you had just after September 11. After September 11, if I remember correctly, there was really a very strong political unity.


KAUFFMANN: In the U.S. We don't have that. But the public opinion is supportive of increased security measures. I wouldn't compare it to the Patriot Act. You know, we don't have Guantanamo. We don't have special presidential powers.

GREENE: But able to arrest people much more freely, I mean, under suspicion of terrorism or anything.

KAUFFMANN: And legal instruments, exactly. Exactly, and that's what is at the heart of the controversy, particularly in the ruling Socialist party. A lot of people are really wary about increasing police powers.

GREENE: But what does it tell us that the French people seem to be very supportive of these kinds of changes?

KAUFFMANN: Well, I think first, a lot of people are afraid. And second, a lot of people resent the fact that there have been so many casualties. Some of those men were known to the police or to the intelligence services. And a lot of people think if the police had had more powers, maybe the attacks of November could have been avoided.

GREENE: Is there a moment that you as a Parisian look back to, you know, that really stands out over the last year?

KAUFFMANN: Yes, I think for me, what was really important was that rally of January 11. It was an incredible experience to stand there and realize that there were so many of us, so diverse. I think unfortunately, that moment was lost. Leaders didn't grab the magic of that moment to try to change the country. And I think an opportunity was lost.

GREENE: Do you see a day when - you know, when the state of emergency sort of calms down and the situation feels safer, that you might see a rally that big kind of bringing the country together?

KAUFFMANN: Yes, it could happen again. Yes, I think so. The state of emergency's planned to stay for three months. So, I mean, politically, the situation should normalize. But there are a lot of questions unanswered, including questions regarding the way we live together as a society, as a diverse society. And these questions have to be examined and answered.

GREENE: Sylvie Kauffmann is the editorial director and a columnist for Le Monde, a newspaper in Paris. Thanks so much for talking to us.

KAUFFMANN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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