Hundreds gathered inside and outside the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 7 to stand with those in France and elsewhere in protest of the massacre of 10 journalists and two police officers earlier in the day in Paris by Islamic terrorists — and to stand for the right of free expression for everyone everywhere.
Three gunmen burst into the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical news publication also known for its provocative cartoons, shooting editors, writers and artists, and then shot a wounded police officer as they fled.
At the Newseum, many held signs that read, “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) and “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie” (We are all Charlie), supporting the right of the humor magazine to express itself, whoever or whatever is insulted. (The Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo had been bombed in 2011 because of its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam.) Other signs read “The pen is mightier than the sword” and “Liberte. Egalite. Fraternite.” The group stood in front of the sidewalk display around 7 p.m. in temperatures dipping into the teens.
On hand among the crowd, many of whom were French, was Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who echoed the sentiments of many lovers of democracy and free expression: “It’s an attack against the freedom of speech, and what it changes is that you have masses of people gathered here in Washington. You have masses of people who are standing up today to say freedom of press is critical.”
Lagarde also appeared at a silent march organized by the French Embassy on Jan. 11. The march progressed from the Newseum to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and was led by Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the U.S. The Washington Post estimated that 3,000 people marched with Araud.
On both occasions, the group chose the Newseum because the non-profit is a well-known museum of journalism with a mission “to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment through exhibits, public programs and education.”
In the wake of the Jan. 7 terror attacks, the museum wrote: “The Newseum joins with journalists and all others who support freedom of expression to declare that such cowardly attempts to thwart free speech and a free press will not succeed, and that all people should be able to express themselves freely and without fear.”