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The Unity Rally

Aired January 11, 2015 - 08:30   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: Live pictures for you in Paris right now, where world leaders who have gathered there with the French president are leaving the palace on their way to the rally, which is set to start in about 28 minutes at this point.

We've got U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder there, Germany's Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as many, many others -- Jordan's King Abdullah, the Second Queen Rania, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- all of them now heading to what you're looking at here. This gathering of what is expected to be a million people who are denouncing the violence that has been in Paris, the killing of all of the people -- the 12 people at "Charlie Hebdo". And you can see the flags that are flying as they tell terrorists there, "You will not take from us our security, our freedom or our liberty."

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And it's not just the 12 people who were killed there at the incident on Wednesday, but also those hostages who lost their lives on Friday, as those standoffs ended. We saw a lot of the French flags in this crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, but there were flags of other nations. We saw there the flags of Israel. We know that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, is there. He tweeted out this morning. He traveled to Paris to stand with the Jewish people there in France. The Congolese flag, the flag of Senegal.

We have Jake Tapper at the Place de la Republique. I know that it's raining there, it's cold but I'm not seeing a single person move. They are there to send a message, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You hear the rain as it starts a heavy wave of it passes through the crowd and nobody is leaving. None of the people here at the Place de la Republique are trying to get out from the rain. Very few of them even have umbrellas.

This is a massive crowd, very excited to be here, very strongly showing solidarity, very strongly standing up for the right of the French people to say what they want to say.

I want to bring in Christiane Amanpour right now. Christiane, good to see you. I didn't know if we were going to get you, you were just broadcasting live on CNN International a second ago.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. The whole world has gathered in support off what happened here in France and to say a resounding "No, we're not going to stand for it." It's not just French flags out there. It's flags from all over and it's people from all over who have come to give a much louder message to this nation and to the world than what the terrorists did on Wednesday.

TAPPER: Our friends in California should know that you are being represented. There is a California flag for some reason over there -- people proud to stand here in solidarity, I guess in that case with America's oldest ally, France.

AMANPOUR: That's absolutely true, and remember, the bells of Notre Dame, when the day of mourning was declared here on Thursday, one day after the terrorist attack, rang for ten minutes. The last time they did that was for 9/11, to remember the victims in the United States. And the last time they did that was after World War II and World War I. It's a very rare occurrence but this is what we're faced with today.

And the resounding, you know, coming together of these people -- the French prime minister has said that they expect a human tidal wave, and this is already showing that. And he also said today, you know, we're all Charlie. We're all police. We're all Jews, we are all French together.

TAPPER: Very inspiring.

AMANPOUR: This attacked every possible aspect of society, and people aren't going to stand for it and aren't going to take it. And for us, this is personal. This is our tribe that's been attacked. This is journalism.

TAPPER: Journalists, yes.

AMANPOUR: This is the right to speak. This is the right to express.

TAPPER: The right to offend.

AMANPOUR: Even -- even to offend. None of this requires the response of murder and a bullet.

TAPPER: Christiane, I want to ask you about something. It was the headline -- a banner headline in "Le Monde" newspaper on Friday, "Le 11 Septembre Francais", France's September 11. Obviously 17 people killed, horrific, but nowhere near 3,000, and yet it does feel like that same kind of moment where this country will not be the same.

AMANPOUR: I believe that's correct, and the reason they said it, if you remember after 9/11 "Le Monde" famous iconic headline cover was "We are all Americans". Now it was "This is France's 9/11". And the truth is as the foreign minister said to me, there has never been an attack of this size in this country in 50 years, so that's since the war, since the occupation. And this is massive, even for a country that has had terrorism in the past. I was here in the 90s, there were terrorist attacks. Many of my

predecessors covered those from the 60s, 70s and 80s, but this is big and this will change.

TAPPER: Christiane Amanpour, we'll be talking more in the coming hour. Thank you so much for your insights --

AMANPOUR: Thanks Jake.

TAPPER: -- as always. I want to turn now to CNN's Erin McPike. She is live this morning from the White House. Erin -- thanks so much for being here.

France is the United States of America's oldest ally. Who is the White House sending, if anyone, to today's unity rally?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, of course the U.S. Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, will be there to show some support for France, also Attorney General Eric Holder is there but he is also in Paris today for a meeting that's hosted by the French interior minister, as well as the Homeland Security deputy secretary is also there. And this comes on the heels of U.S. officials telling us in the last few days that they expected attacks on the West like the one that happened in Paris this past week, and this idea from U.S. officials that these attacks are happening in perpetuity, they're going to continue, as we talked about yesterday. It's like the war on drugs, they're comparing it to.

Also we heard from Andrew Parker, the director of the British intelligence agency MI5 saying these attacks are harder to detect, that they're happening with very short planning. And so all of these people are coming together from Western nations to try to figure out a way that they can share intelligence better, they're brainstorming today on how they can prevent future attacks.

On that note, we also heard from the White House early this morning back in September, the White House announced that they would be holding a summit on countering violent extremism. They were going to originally hold that summit in October, but then it got pushed off, and this morning, they announced that that meeting will be happening on February 18th.

And I want to read part of the announcement to you. The White House says "Our partners around the world are actively implementing programs to prevent violent extremism and foreign terrorist fighter recruitment. The summit will include representatives from a number of partner nations focusing on the themes of community engagement, religious leader engagement and the role of the private sector and tech community."

So obviously, Jake, a lot of meetings happening, brainstorming to prevent these attacks that are going to continue and trying to find some way to stop it.

TAPPER: Erin McPike, thank you so much. We appreciate it. I'm standing right here at Place de la Republique. And a police

helicopter just passed by, and the crowd started applauding, chanting, "Merci le police", you hear them right now. "Thank you to the police." "Thank you to the police," they're saying here. Obviously a policewoman killed on Thursday, a policeman killed on Wednesday by these terrorist in this series of attack.

Let's bring in right now terrorism expert and author of "Al Qaeda and France", Samuel Laurent. Monsieur Laurent -- thank you so much for being here. There is obviously very intense, very heightened security right now in Paris for this unity march, with all these world leaders, from Germany, great Britain, Israel, the Palestinian territory.

Give us some understanding, some idea of what French police are doing to try to keep everyone safe.

SAMUEL LAURENT, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, OK, they're really trying obviously to monitor the unpredicted. For now, there is no information about precise threats against the demonstration, the demonstrators, or even the world leaders that are coming around, but as you say if you look at the facts, some cells are existing, some cells have been activated, and hundreds of jihadis have flocked back from Syria and Iraq to France. So the threat is real.

And unfortunately question we can say that this is a huge challenge, and this would be a huge price for anybody willing to perpetrate the terror act today in basically in front of the entire world community. So we have to be aware of al Qaeda cells of the type that has been operated in "Charlie Hebdo" and also advise people and as well as what we call lone wolves so basically there is a multiple threat.

As you can hear, maybe helicopters are flying around. There are snipers on the roof. It's a very, very tight and unprecedented security measures that have been taken here to surround and basically secure as much as it's possible Paris, but again, nothing can be guaranteed 100 percent.

For people just waking up in the United States, earlier today, an incendiary device was thrown into part of a newspaper in Germany and what may be significant about that, Sam, is that that newspaper published the "Charlie Hebdo" cartoons, the ones that had offended individuals and put them in the line of fire by these Islamic extremists and now the newspaper experiencing this act of vandalism. Thankfully nobody was there, nobody was hurt.

I imagine, Samuel Laurent, counterterrorism expert, that the initial investigations will look into whether or not there's a connection.

LAURENT: Yes, and obviously nothing is confirmed, but the connection is rather obvious, I would say. If it's not obvious in terms of organization, we do not know whether a cell is involved, but at least in terms of ideology and this is the problem, even if two people or two groups are acting not in connection in terms of belonging to the same group, whether it be ISIS, whether it be al Qaeda, still the ideology that underlies their action is basically the same -- and this is radical Islam.

And the problem is that all over Europe we have those kind of threats, because Europe is an open space, so basically French can go strike in Germany. Germans can come and strike in France. French can strike in Belgium, like we saw with the killings of the Jewish people in the Brussels Museum.

So therefore, you know, it's a very interconnected countries inside the European union and danger faced by one country is unfortunately felt directly by another.

TAPPER: That's right, those open borders make fighting terrorism and in fact any crime in addition to terrorism very, very complicated for law enforcement to combat.

Samuel Laurent, thank you so much, as always, for your insights.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back -- more coverage of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks here in Paris, France and in just 15 minutes this unity rally will get kicked off. Stay with us -- stay with CNN for that. Back after this.


BLACKWELL: Live pictures here from Place de la Republique where hundreds of thousands of people have gathered to say "Je suis Charlie", "We are Charlie" and to speak with the terrorists who took not just Paris but France through three days of terror that "You will not win". You see there of course the French flag but flags from many nations as people have gathered to support France. Maybe they have chosen the country as their new home country and said we are here in solidarity with not just the people of France but the journalists who have the right to write what they choose and as Jake Tapper just pointed out, sometimes the right to offend.

PAUL: And if you look at the people there, some of them have been standing there for up to three hours. This is a crowd that has just been growing and growing since 6:00 a.m. Eastern time. You can see them -- now they're singing obviously, which they have doing, we believe the national anthem. They're standing on as you can see that statue because there is a little real estate there it seems for people --


PAUL: -- as they're getting there. But Fred Pleitgen has found himself just a little swathe of real estate in the middle of all of this. We want to go to him now, as he's in the middle of all of these folks.

Fred, can you give us a sense, since we're just watching, what is it like, what does it feel like to be there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it's a very positive atmosphere, Christi. And there's something that I have heard here, which I actually haven't heard in a very long time. The people here were just shouting "Viva l'press" so "long live the press" which is something that we journalists don't hear very often these days. So that certainly is something that's very positive and it is generally a very positive atmosphere.

If we pan up there to the middle of the Place de la Republique, you can tell the people are holding up a very large pen or a very large pencil. And we know, of course, that the pen and the pencil have sort of become symbols of this movement, which is one which is a very stark reaction to the events that we've seen unfold here over the past couple of days where people are saying we cannot allow freedom of the press, we cannot allow freedom of the speech to be infringed on by radical forces here in the country.

And it's interesting because I think France had several options of how they were going to react to what happened here over the past couple of days. They could have allowed themselves to be divided. Radical forces could have formed the debate but in the end it's the unity movement has come out here in force today and showing it's strength.

But since we are in the middle of the crowd we want to talk to the crowd as well. And I have Benoit with me today --

BENOIT: Yes, good morning.

PLEITGEN: Good afternoon, I have to say. It's morning in America.


PLEITGEN: Tell me why it was so important for to you come out here today?

BENOIT: It was important to witness that we are not afraid, and to be here, nothing is going to deter us to be here to work for freedom.

PLEITGEN: How pivotal, how important do you think this time is for France right now to redefine its social contract with itself basically?

BENOIT: To show that nothing has changed in France. We always gather with all our strengths, freedom, all this kind of thing. Nothing is going to change because of threat, because we are not afraid about the threats, about all this kind of fear. There is no fear in France. Fear of division, we are not divided anymore. We have never been divided and not divided today.

PLEITGEN: Thank you very much, Benoit. It was good to speak to you.

There's some other people here as well. I believe you're from France. These are three ladies who came here. We have France --


PLEITGEN: England and --


PLEITGEN: -- the Netherlands. They're very close together. I want to speak to you. How important was it for you to come here and also to show that your country won't be divided?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't imagine not being here today. I'm really moved to be here with my friends from other countries. I think the slogan "Je suis Charlie" is true for everyone in the world today and also to show that we're not scared. We're not afraid. You can hear the shouting sometimes and I think that's what terrorism is about, to scare us, and we are sending "We are Charlie" and "We are not afraid".

PLEITGEN: One of the things though that has been happening in the recent months was quite a troubling development in France because on the one hand you had the rise of right wing politics, Marine Le Pen, Reform Nacionale (ph) but you also had a rise in Islamist radicalism. And I don't say it's many Muslims -- it's only a tiny fraction but there were many who for instance fought for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

How important do you think it is today to show that this is actually the majority in France? That it's not the right wingers, that it's not the radicals on the other side who are going to be leading this debate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well because we're talking about extremists, either the radical Islamists or the Reform Nacionale we're talking about extremists. That is not France. France is made by its citizens, by its freedom, by its values and that's what everybody here today is showing.

PLEITGEN: All right -- great. thank you very much. Thank you to all of you. I think we have to get going because the march is also going.


PLEITGEN: We're going to try and walk with the march just a little bit. I'm not sure how long our signal is actually going to hold but certainly we'll be bringing you the live pictures, of course, and we'll try and make our way with the marchers going from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation. It's that way.

BLACKWELL: All right -- Fred. Thank you so much. We'll check back with you as the march continues.

We'll take a quick break and we'll talk more about this video that has been posted online of one of the terrorists pledging allegiance to ISIS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAUL: The unity march has begun. You are looking at live

pictures of people in Paris of people who are saying to terrorists this morning, "You will not define us."

Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst has been watching this as well. Peter, I'm curious. We're watching this. We're watching their defiance and their inspiration. The terrorists are probably watching this as well. What change might an event like this actually activate?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, the French have taken a pretty aggressive attitude overseas about terrorist groups. You may recall Christi that in early 2013 the French army went into Northern Mali which was then controlled by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an area about the size of France and basically defeated al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and that before they've been attacked in this manner.

So I would imagine that when the French say they're at war with these kinds groups I don't think that's simple rhetoric. I think you'll see a much more aggressive French stance which is already pretty aggressive against these groups from a military standpoint -- Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Peter Bergen, stay with us throughout the day as this really continues. Nearly a million people expected there. And we know that there are world leaders there who are standing with not just French president Francois Hollande but the French people. We know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he tweeted out this morning that he was traveling to Paris to stand with the Jewish community there in France. We know that Angela Merkel the chancellor of Germany. We've got the president of the Palestinian Authority who is there as well. Leaders from turkey, from around the world who were there, Eric Holder the U.S. Attorney General. You've got also the U.S. Ambassador to France representing the United States, not just there in solidarity but also offering some real support as it relates to counterterrorism. Our top law enforcement official there, helping them fight this terror threat.

PAUL: And it will be interesting to see what comes out of their meetings together.

Thank you so much for watching our live coverage. We appreciate you being here as always.

"STATE OF THE UNION" starts right now with live continuing coverage -- next.