Paris attacks: Skittish Parisians flee Place de la Republique after firecrackers reignite panic
16th Nov 2015
There has once again been panic on the streets of Paris, with hundreds of people running from the Place de la Republique after mistaking the sound of firecrackers for gunfire.
- Crowd flees Place de la Republique after fearing they heard gunshots
- Police confirm the sounds were firecrackers
- Crowd was attending public rally for victims of Friday attacks
A young man said he heard a sound like an explosion and started to run. Police confirmed the sound was firecrackers.
A few blocks from Place de la Republique, a heater or a light bulb exploded on a terrace, provoking panic as passers-by warned friends on social media of a new attack.
At Le Carillon, a cafe targeted by gunmen on Friday, people shouted and ran.
A few hundred metres away, people jumped into the cold waters of the Ourcq canal, a security agent said.
The mayor of the area, Christophe Girard, who was at Notre Dame Cathedral attending a mass in memory of the victims of the attacks, said he received a text message saying there was “gunfire near the town hall”.
He left the cathedral to “reassure and calm local residents”, he said.
Before the noises sparked panic in one of Paris’s favourite sites for protests, Place de la Republique was filled up again despite a ban on public rallies
Although people said they felt good about returning to the square, the crowd at one point suddenly started to run in panic towards side streets.
“The crowds started moving apparently without reason,” a policeman on the scene said.
There were rumours of gunshots, but he said: “We didn’t hear anything and all the people we’ve asked didn’t hear anything either.”
The square slowly filled up again after the short scare.
Locals were being interviewed at a nearby restaurant, expressing their determination not to let the attacks deter them from going about their normal lives, when someone entered the cafe and urged patrons to “move, move”.
With people panicking and running past the restaurant, patrons fled believing another attack was underway.
France 24 journalist and former Adelaide resident Annette Young was dining out with a colleague when the false alarm was sparked.
She told 891 ABC Adelaide she hid in a cafe’s kitchen for 15 minutes at the time of the false alarm.
“We made our way up a side street and were sitting down at a Japanese cafe and just about as the food was delivered, all of a sudden there was this massive stampede of people just fleeing down the street, screaming and yelling as they did it, and the automatic reaction of course from everybody inside the restaurant was to jump up,” Ms Young said.
“Over the course of about 10 or 15 minutes, although you can imagine it felt like hours, it was eventually established that it was a false alert.
“Apparently someone, somewhere in the city centre had heard fire crackers, not realising whether it was gunfire or not, [and had] alerted the police,” she said.
“The police suddenly drew their weapons and you can imagine what that meant for the crowd. So as a result the crowd just fled.
“It was just a moment where one’s heart went into one’s mouth as you can appreciate, but then again it can give you a sense of how we are all living on the edge at the moment. It’s a very tense city indeed.
Linda, who lost a friend in the attacks that occurred not far from the square, said she could not stay away.
“Yesterday, I shut myself in, I stayed in the dark,” she said.
“Today I had to go out, to be here with people.”
Brother and sister Ghislain and Laetitia Chavonne said “we have to go out and express ourselves and show these crazy people we still can live”.
“Yesterday we were in shock and paralysed, today we jolted back into motion,” said executive assistant Gaelle Daligaud,
holding her son in her arms at the Place de la Republique as a group sang the French national anthem.
The square in eastern Paris, which attracted mass rallies after attacks in January that killed 17 at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket, had been all but deserted on Saturday.
The few people who turned up on Saturday said others were afraid or followed police advice not to leave their homes.
Ms Daligaud, who came with her Moroccan Muslim neighbour, Rajaa Hanine, said she wanted to be there “to show to those terrorists that they haven’t won, that their stupidity can’t divide us”.
“We needed it,” she said.
On the central statue, amid flowers and candles, a gigantic banner read: “Not afraid.”
In a corner of the square, a wall was spray-painted with the City of Paris motto “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” — Latin for “buffeted (by waves) but not sunk”. At its feet, people had laid small paper boats.
“It feels good, it will help me feel better, I’m so sad,” Ms Hanine said, visibly moved as she held her son’s hand.
If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC.
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