Paris, France – On Boulevard Richard Lenoir, a few metres from the former office of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, a small crowd gathers around the spot where French policeman Ahmed Merabet was killed by attackers as he tried to stop them from fleeing the scene of their mass murder.
Standing there, shivering, Sophie cries silently as she looks at the pile of notes, flags and flowers on the ground.
“I can’t stop crying,” said the 50-year-old school librarian, who did not want to give her last name because she lives near where the attackers did and is “scared”.
“I find it very difficult what’s happening. It’s shocking, it’s sad, it’s unbelievable that you can kill people like that. We’re in France, a free country, we want to live in peace. I’m very afraid of racism. I think it’s going to be very tense for several weeks, several months, several years, between the populations.”
A week after the attacks that killed 17 in Paris, tensions are rising in France from schools to the streets, and fears of racism and sectarianism are growing.
As the country tries to grasp the events and understand the root cause of the attacks, one political party is ready to seize the moment to position itself as the unique solution to the French ordeal: Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, the Front National, which has long challenged France’s immigration policies.