Solidarity for Charlie Hedbo

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Whether or not you take French, chances are that at this point you know exactly what “Je Suis Charlie” means. Like “hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe,” the saying, which is French for “I am Charlie,” has been the rallying cry of mourners aScreen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.08.08 PMnd free speech advocates across the globe in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then chances are you haven’t heard or read about what happened in Paris this month. On Wednesday January 7, at around 11:30 local time, two masked gunmen entered the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which is French for Weekly Charlie, and shot members of it’s staff execution style.

The newspaper, which has been around since the 1960s, features anti-religious articles, cartoons, reports and jokes. Its main targets are Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, politics and culture. The controversial publication has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and in 2011 had their offices set on fire and their website hacked for their anti-religion cartoons.

In a video that captured the attack, the shooters can be heard yielding AK-47 assault rifles and a shotgun while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” which is most commonly used as a call for prayer or an informal expression of faith by Muslims. More recently, Islamic extremist terrorist groups have used the exclamation during attacks.

It was later revealed that the gunmen had threatened to shoot cartoonist Corinne Rey’s two-year-old daughter, whom she had just picked up from daycare, if she did not enter the building’s security code and give them access to the building. The attack resulted in 12 dead and 11 wounded, two of the dead being police officers and the rest being newspaper staff. One of these was cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier, who served as editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo and was added to al-Qaeda’s most wanted list in 2013.

The two men left the building shouting, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!” They then escaped via getaway car and drove some four miles to Porte de Pantin before hijacking another car and running over a pedestrian.

The suspects have since been revealed as brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, both Parisian born and active members of al-Qaeda. A massive manhunt began immediately following the attack which continued until the two were found the nest morning in Dammartin-en-Goële, which is approximately 22 miles North of Paris.

They held Michel Catalano, the owner of a building that holds the office of a production company, hostage for an hour before finally releasing him and starting a stand off with the police, which lasted from eight to nine hours, until the brothers exited the building and open fire on waiting police. Both were gunned down and Molotov cocktails and an RPG launcher were found in the area.

On January 9, Amedy Coulibaly, an associate of the Kouachi brothers and radical Islamist, shot and killed a police officer in the southern suburb of Paris, Montrouge. Later, he entered a supermarket armed with two AK-47’s, killing four people and taking several more hostage. Police stormed the store, killing Coulibaly and rescuing the fifteen hostages.

Demonstrations against the shootings were held at the Place de la République in Paris and in the wake of the gatherings, January 8 was named a national day of mourning by French President Francois Hollande.

During the protests, the saying “Je Suis Charlie” was born. It started as a hashtag on twitter to show condemnation for the attack. Not long after the attack took place, an estimated 35,000 people took to the streets carrying “Je Suis Charlie” signs in support of free speech.

By evening around 100,000 people had gathered across France, holding candlelight vigils and hanging signs and banners all reading “Je Suis Charlie.” The demonstrations soon spread to Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, London, Washington D.C., New York City, Calgary, Ottawa and Brisbane. Demonstrations were even held in Montreal, despite the -6 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

In the following days the biggest story other than the demonstrations has been the reactions both condemning and supporting the attacks. The attack has only been supported by groups such as ISIS and the refugees of the Palestinian camp Ain al-Hilweh. World leaders such as Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, David Cameron and Angela Merkel have expressed both their support for the French government and their condolences.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Qatar have denounced the incident, as has the League of Arab States.