Figures show between 1.3 and 1.5 million protested against their president's plans to pass same-sex marriage, according Bruno Dary, the former military governor of the city of Paris. Numbers from other media outlets range from an estimated 340,000 to 800,000 attendees.
Set to go before France's parliament Jan. 29, the draft law proposes to redefine marriage as a union “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex.”
“It was a kind of a tsunami,” participant Catherine Vierling said of Sunday's demonstration.
“There was a very strong and powerful feeling of determination from everyone” said Vierling, who was part of the committee of the French Abroad of La Manif pour Tous, the event's main organizer.
“There was a peaceful and joyful feeling combined with an intense, strong power,” she added.
Vierling told CNA that Champs de Mars, a large park next to the Eiffel Tower, was so packed that according to the city of Paris, police had to escort buses that were stuck in traffic.
“There were families from all over the country who traveled the whole day,” she said. “My nephews, nieces and brother-in-law woke up at 6 a.m. to catch the train.”
“There were so many young people and people taking trains back at midnight, but families really felt this was needed,” she added.
Demonstrators included wide range of participants, many with no reported religious affiliation. Numerous gay individuals took part in the event, with slogans including “We're more gay without marriage.”
Attendees also included French gay city mayor, Jean Marc, who is outspokenly opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, as well as members from the organization HOMOVOX, which stands for “one voice for homosexuals.”
Those within the Muslim community, of which many had voted for president Francois Hollande for his immigration policies, were also at the event in disapproval of his plans to legalize gay marriage.
Many also protested against the socialist government's plans to legalize adoption for same-sex couples.
“You can have legal papers to protect a child, but this is uncalled for,” said Vierling, who is also a medical doctor.
“The whole thing will cause children to lose their identity and they need to know they came from a mom and a dad,” she added.
Some also opposed the president's failure to fix the economy with slogans “Give us jobs, don't change law on marriage” and labeling its plans for June as “silly actions.”
There were also socialists protesting against their own government's views saying “Please come back, Jospin, they all went crazy,” referring to France's former socialist prime minister.
Young women dressed as French Revolutionaries with phrygian red caps carried signs with “Don't touch my civil code.”
“This is just a political thing and it's going to create so much turmoil,” Vierling said.
“Our future depends on our feet and if we're walking the streets everything can change from one minute to the next, but not if we just sit at home comfortably watching TV,” she added.
Over one million people reportedly took to the streets in France on Jan. 13 in opposition to President Francois Hollande's “marriage for all” proposal.
Marriage, Church in France