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Mayor Bill de Blasio tells gathering: NYC 'must refuse to be terrorized'

Security in front of the French Consulate Office

Security in front of the French Consulate Office in Manhattan is heightened on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Assault-rifle-armed cops in body armor fanned out to guard New York City's most crowded spots. Transit police officers randomly searched subway passengers' bags for explosives. The NYPD's Europe-based liaison combed through the aftermath for lessons learned.

As French authorities investigated the country's deadliest violence since World War II, their counterparts in New York City on Saturday intensified a security apparatus already muscular because of 9/11 to prevent similar attacks in the city.

Flanked by dignitaries including the consul general of France in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that more than 1,500 of the NYPD's 36,000 officers are dedicated to combating would-be terrorists and "to be ready to respond . . . if God forbid we ever encounter such a situation."

"We have to be resolute in a moment like this," de Blasio said. "We must refuse to be terrorized. We won't change our democracy. We won't change our values. We won't change our culture."

Even more than usual, the NYPD is conducting bag searches, a program begun in 2005 after the London transit bombings, despite complaints from civil libertarians.

With the help of machines to detect explosives like dynamite and C4, officers are focusing on rush-hour and transit hubs where subway lines intersect, regularly rotating where they go, said the NYPD's top counterterrorism official, John Miller.

De Blasio yesterday afternoon laid a bouquet of flowers under the Washington Square Park arch, where more than 1,000 had gathered in solidarity.

"Viva la France!" he shouted, a cry the crowd echoed. He and the consular official led a somber singing of "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem.

The memorial attracted tourists, expats and other French people in the United States.

Jeremy Pellestor, 28, a management consultant who used to live in Paris and now is in Williamsburg, said after being shocked by news of the attacks late Friday, he woke up in the middle of the night to even worse developments: the death count had spiked.

Word of the Washington Square Park vigil was on Facebook, Pellestor said, and he felt compelled to show solidarity.

"I thought it was important for me to be here," he said.

Up in Times Square, tourists watched with a mix of marvel, confusion and comfort as cops with M4 assault rifles and dozens of others mustered for patrol yesterday afternoon.

Guilherme Vieira, 23, an exchange student from Brazil studying industrial engineering at Hofstra University, said he's comforted by the police flooding the streets, equipped with heavy weaponry. "They know that we have to be protected. They have to put people on the streets and avoid a bad situation to happen here," Vieira said. "I feel protected now."

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