We Remember Journalists and Police Slain in Paris Massacre

  • Supporters in Montreal gathered downtown and in front of City Hall in -21°C weather on Wednesday night, one of hundreds of vigils across the world for the victims of the Paris shooting. Photo Fatma Daldoul

Wednesday morning in Paris, two masked gunmen attacked the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper headquarters located in the heart of the French capital.


Eight of the paper’s cartoonists and writers were killed by the attackers, as well as two policemen who were among the first to arrive on the scene, a visitor to the paper’s office and a maintenance worker.

The magazine headquarters are said to have been targeted because of their reputation for publishing socially and politically sensitive comics and articles. Police believe the motive behind the bloody assault was the magazine’s publishing of caricatures mocking and satirizing Islam and important Islamic figures, including its prophet Mohammad.

A video of the attack shows the assailants just after having committed the massacre in the magazine’s offices as they roam the streets preparing to leave. One of them shouts “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is the greatest” in Arabic. One gunman walks up to a policeman whom they wounded as he’s lying on the ground and shoots him point-blank in the head, executing him.

After having fled the scene in a black car, a massive manhunt began to find the two suspects, later identified as brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. After taking a hostage in a last stand at a printing business near Charles de Gaulle airport, they were killed in a shootout with armed forces, their hostages rescued.

An accomplice, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a female police officer in Montrouge on Thursday, was also killed in a shootout with officers after holding his own set of hostages at a kosher supermarket east of Paris, four of them were killed.
The brothers were on the U.S. terrorist watch list, according to U.S. officials. Chérif Kouachi was part of a group that would send would-be jihadists to fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

“Today, France has been attacked at its heart – in Paris. Caricaturists of great talent and courageous writers have died. I want to tell them that we will continue to defend their message of freedom,” said French president François Hollande at l’Élysée palace on Wednesday, following after the attack. _Charlie Hebdo_’s head editor Stéphane Charbonnier, better known as “Charb,” was among the victims.

“The one thing that I’m very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a universal belief in freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced,” said U.S. president Barack Obama. “I think it’s going to be important for us, going forward, to make sure that we recognize these kinds of attacks can happen anywhere in the world.”

This attack on journalists has resurfaced disturbing realities regarding the fragility of freedom of expression in this day and age. It evokes painful memories of the 2004 murder of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who was killed by a Muslim fundamentalist for producing a short film that addressed the abhorrent treatment of women in Muslim culture.

It certainly feels, at this point, that a war has been declared on those who embrace their freedom of speech by those who wish to extinguish it.

Many brilliant minds were erased because they believed in the fundamental right to liberty of expression. But, as appears to be the trend, cut off the head and five more will grow.

As Tom Toles of the Washington Post wrote, “But the pen will endure.”

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