Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Across Europe, people have taken to the streets in support of free speech after a deadly terrorist attack against France's most controversial satirical publication.
More than a hundred thousand people across Europe have gathered this evening in a show of support for the victims of the terrorist attack inside the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.
Late-morning Wednesday, three masked gunmen forced their way into the publication's offices during a staff meeting, killing 10 of Charlie Hebdo's staff members and two police officers. As reported by the New York Times, amateur video outside the publication's offices show the assailants shouting, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”
The shooters are currently at large, and French president François Hollande has since raised the country's terror alert to its highest status.
From Paris' Place de la Republique to the French Embassy in Berlin, Europeans have gathered, holding up pens and signs that read "Je Suis Charlie" as displays of solidarity and support for free speech.
The anti-religion, anti-authoritarian weekly paper has long been a source of controversy. Its predecessor, Hara-Kiri Hebdo, was ordered shut down in 1970 by the French Minister of the Interior after publishing an inflammatory joke about the death of president Charles de Gaulle. After changing its name, Charlie Hebdo ceased publication between 1981 and 1992. Its cartoon portrayals of the prophet Mohammed in recent years have generated condemnations by political leaders and lawsuits from Islamic organizations. In 2011, Charlie Hebdo's offices were firebombed after the publication announced that its upcoming issue would be "guest edited" by Mohammed.
From the pages of Charlie Hebdo to Les Guignols de l'info's unflattering puppet portrayals of public figures on the nation's television sets, satire has always played a significant role in French discourse. As tonight's demonstrations show, few want that to change—even after today's tragedy.