They started coming early on Sunday, first by the hundreds, then by the thousands.
On a day of national mourning in France
, crowds amassed in Paris
’s 11th arrondissement to pay homage to the victims of Friday night’s massacres at the Bataclan music hall and two nearby restaurants.
Under a cloudless blue sky and armed with colorful bouquets or a single red rose, families and couples, children and the elderly, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and people from all walks of life transformed police barricades outside the sites into makeshift shrines.
On the Rue de Charonne, where 18 people were killed Friday at La Belle Équipe cafe, piles of flowers were mixed with tea candles and a thicket of signs expressing solidarity and defiance against terrorism.
“France will fight against the killers,” read one.
“Life, yes. Hate, no,” read another.
The night before, members of the band U2, which cancelled concerts in Paris scheduled for the weekend, laid flowers at the site and bowed their heads in a moment of silence.
“What happened here is unspeakable. That France has been struck twice within a year has shaken us to the core,” said Vincent Mookel, 25, as his girlfriend broke into tears. “We’re here to show solidarity, but also to send a message that we cannot let these barbarous acts influence our lives.”
Across from the Bataclan, where debris from the mayhem was concealed by a large tarp, Enzo Geray, 5, asked his father, Cedric, why strangers had come to kill people. “I didn’t know what to say at first,” Mr. Geray said. “I’m doing my best to explain.”
Aina Wavoeke, 11, had refused to leave her family’s apartment in the neighborhood since Friday night, said her mother, Sonia. “I encouraged her to come outside today to overcome her fear,” Mrs. Wavoeke said. “Peace can only prevail if we all stand together.”
Aina lowered her eyes to the big bouquet of red, white and blue flowers that she had purchased just an hour earlier from a local florist. “I’m still a little afraid,” she said. “But I understand that we have to take a stand.”
A shouting match broke out as the crowd thinned when a Frenchman, spotting a group of Muslim women in headscarves who had come to pay their respects, approached them to say the Quran was to blame.
“The Quran says that nobody can take a life,” said Abiba Trabacke, who was wearing a blue headscarf. “These were extremists; they are like the Nazis. They have nothing to do with us,” she said.
Several other women in her entourage also began shouting and broke into tears of frustration.
“Listen, this is a day of national mourning. We should not start a big debate here,” said one bystander.
“How can we not discuss it when we came here to honor the victims, only to get attacked as Muslims,” Mrs. Trabacke said. “We want to live in peace too.”