Today in Paris armed extremists stormed the office of French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, reportedly killing 12 people, including two police officers, and injuring some 20 others, several of whom are suffering life-threatening injuries. Among the dead are editor Stéphane Charbonnier and cartoonists Jean Cabut, Bernard Verlhac and Georges Wolinski, as well as columnist Bernard Maris – further names have yet to be released. The three hooded gunmen fled with a stolen car – several witnesses filmed the event with cell phone cameras, including the moment when assailants shouted, in French, “We killed Charlie Hebdo” and “We have avenged the prophet” in what is widely considered a reference to the publication’s satirical depictions of the prophet Muhammad.
In Washington, Secretary of State John F. Kerry responded to the attacks by saying, “The murderers dared proclaim Charlie Hebdo is dead. But make no mistake, they are wrong. Today, and tomorrow, in Paris, in France and across the world, the freedom of expression this magazine represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.” It is the deadliest terrorist attack in France since 1995, when an Algerian rebel group killed eight people in a string of bombings over several months. Charlie Hebdo had come under attack more recently; it’s offices were firebombed in 2011, after the magazine published a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad.
People immediately took to the streets in cities around the world to demonstrate solidarity with the slain journalists and artists – many were also swift to respond online with #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), among other hashtags including #CharlieHebdo. Artists all over the world posted cartoons in honor of the cartoonists and the freedom of speech their work represented -- this is a mere sampling, with many more anticipated in the days to come, online and in print. This brutal attempt at silence has only amplified the need for freedom of expression, and the Internet has provided a platform for the world to respond. Long live Charlie Hebdo.