However if the sincerity of the millions filling the Paris boulevards was not in question the same could not be said of the uncomfortably arms linked “world leaders” who, suitably suited in politicians uniform, headed the people’s march.
This dubious line-up included Israeli Premier Netanyahu whose forces last year killed seven journalists as they reported the reality of the IDF’s war in Gaza, Egypt’s foreign minister whose government has held Al Jazeera journalists captive for over a year now and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg whose warplanes deliberately targeted journalists in Belgrade in 1999 killing 16.
They were joined by greater or lesser opponents of domestic press freedom including UK prime minister David Cameron, whose government seized files uncovered by Edward Snowden and handed to the Guardian and had them destroyed.
It is this sharp contrast between the millions of citizens and the hypocritical elite who claim to speak for them that goes not just to the heart of the democratic issues raised by the Paris attacks but the wider question of the so called “war on terror” and its consequences.
In the same week as the French atrocities 23 Iraqi soldiers died in a car bombing, 33 Yemeni police officer wee murdered in the same way and a leading Saudi border guard commander was shot dead. In Nigeria a 10-year-old girl was used to detonate a suicide bomb killing scores.
The brutal truth is that the war on terror far from offering a solution is in fact a key part of the problem not the answer to it.
The millions who marched against the Iraq war across the globe knew that this is the case. Predictably the “statesmen” ignored them and led to mayhem first in Iraq, then Afghanistan and now across the planet.
In France in the aftermath of the massive marches for democracy President Hollande put his country on a war footing with 10,000 regular troops on the streets alongside 5,000 para military gendarmerie while David Cameron, Boris Johnston and the head of MI5 all called for extra spying powers for police and secret service forces.
As the reality of the Afghan defeat has shown there is not a military solution to a complex of injustice which includes drone warfare, torture and widespread repression and economic misery.
Much of the current problem centres on the ghastly war in Syria. Initially the west dreamt of toppling Assad with a coalition of pro-NATO forces.
It didn’t work out that way and the west’s chosen forces are now eclipsed by fundamentalists such as ISIS in what is now a brutal quagmire beyond their control.
The immediate task must be to find a way to a ceasefire and then a peaceful end to the Syria conflict as an opening to new international approach that addresses not just the symptoms of so-called terrorism but the lengthy list of flashpoints and issues at its heart.
Democracy, free speech and press freedom are among our most precious possessions and that is why the surest way to protect them is to work for peace abroad and resist the siren voices seeking to curb our civil rights at home.
Bleak as the outlook is, another way is possible.