The Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) is not the only way people are showing solidarity with those harmed in the attacks at Charlie Hebdo's office on Wednesday. In less than 24 hours, thousands of supporters around the world gathered to mourn the tragic events and rally for freedom of expression.
On Wednesday, three masked gunmen entered the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and murdered 12 people, injuring another 10. Over the years, the publication has been criticized for going “too far” with their satire, offending many groups with their violent, explicit, and raw political cartoons. Regardless of prior misgivings, many in the public have responded in support of the publication, proclaiming there is no excuse for this senseless violence.
More than 15,000 supporters gathered Wednesday night at Paris's Place de la République in honor of the victims of the massacre, the deadliest in France within at least the last 20 years. Those gathered lit candles, held up copies of the magazine’s front pages, and raised pens in the air to symbolize freedom of speech. The Telegraph reported that in 150 cities across the country, 100,000 people took to the streets.
One man, who wished to go unnamed, voiced the grief experienced by the French because of these attacks in an interview with The Guardian:
“Everyone is shocked: the cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Wolinski, Tikgnous . . . we grew up with them. Half of France grew up with them,” he said. “My god, how could this happen?”
Outside of France, over a thousand individuals, including French citizens, gathered in Trafalgar Square in London to show their support and grieve together. Others have shown their support by rallying for freedom of speech in Belgium, Canada, Brazil, and the United States. For some, Wednesday's brutal violence has brought the risks of free expression into sharp focus.
“How satire is handled is a question of how vulnerable the people in a culture and in power feel. In America, the media can get away with almost anything at all because the government and its leaders don’t feel threatened. However, in cases such as North Korea and in the case of most Arab states, the people feel the West is a powerful player effacing their cultures,” Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute in Bethesda, Md., told the Monitor in a phone interview.
The Guardian reported that many supporters attended the rally because they were in shock from the tragic events. While these terrorist actions have left the world shaken, thousands still stand together in support of journalism and everyone's right to free speech.
“I came here tonight not just to support freedom of speech but freedom from violence. Charlie Hebdo was with me during my teenage years, in fact all my life. It was always there, fun, funny, sometimes upsetting, but always there to remind me the meaning of the word ‘freedom’,” said Raphael Chenuil-Hazam, 37. He told The Guardian, “These crazy people want to kill freedom and I am here to say they will never kill freedom of speech, the freedom to criticize even religion and to make fun of whoever they wish.”
For those who wish to show their support, Mother Jones released a map with the locations of various rallies taking place around the world.