Photos from Paris: A Look at Je Suis Charlie

January 7, 2015 was not only a dark day in France, but also in every country that holds the freedom of speech, expression, and the press so dearly. The brutal attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper located in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, left twelve people dead, including eight journalists and two police officers. On January 8, a police officer was gunned down in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. January 9 brought further violence when an armed man killed four and injured four others in a Jewish supermarket in Porte de Vincennes in the eastern area of Paris. Throughout the three-day string of violence, 17 lives were needlessly taken.

During the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack, I was writing in a café in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, located in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. One hour later, I was in the Picasso Museum in the Marais, the historically Jewish area of Paris. It was then that I received a text message regarding the morning’s events. Bewildered, I had a million questions. As I tried to wrap my head around the situation, I looked at the faces in the museum. Engrossed with the works of Picasso, it appeared that no one knew. Soon, however, everyone would learn of the event that set off a firestorm of violent acts and subsequent uprising across not only France, but also the world.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

The French motto of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité {Liberty, Equality, Fraternity} is emblazoned on everything from coins to stamps to buildings. It’s been part of the country’s lexicon since the end of the 17th century, however these three words are the cornerstones of any true republic. It is due in part to these French principals that I am afforded the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a United States citizen. Just as in America, France guarantees freedom of speech, press, and religion. More than just an assault on a newspaper and supermarket, these common ideals and rights came under attack last week.

In a country historically known for mobilizing and taking to the streets, France held the largest demonstration in their history on Sunday, January 11. Officials estimate that over 1.6 million people participated in the unity march in Paris. With two official routes leading from Place de la République to Place de la Nation, the surrounding streets swelled with people of all ages, colors, religions, and nationalities. With over 40 heads of state in attendance, as well as the families of the victims, the overwhelming scene was peaceful, almost serene.

As I write this, I’m still in a bit of a fog given this series of events. What happened in Paris could easily happen in any other city. It’s certainly not just a French problem. Extremists of all kinds hide in both dark corners and plain sight throughout the world. They are our neighbors and co-workers. They are the ones next to us in the café and sitting in traffic. They strike when least expected. They are cowardly and cunning. And it’s because of the sacrifices of others that I can not only write what I want, but also worship whoever I choose. These are my inalienable rights, ones that are often taken for granted, until they are threatened.

The eight journalists who died at the Charlie Hebdo offices gave the ultimate sacrifice: their lives. Some of the controversial cartoonists were under police protection, but they didn’t allow death threats to silence their work. And because of their sacrifice, along with the other nine rampage victims, the world has been brought together with a simple phrase, Je Suis Charlie, to defend the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and to support those who risk their lives daily to keep ours safe.

Scenes from Place de la République

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Scenes near the Charlie Hebdo office

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Scenes from Paris’ Unity Rally

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12 Comments
  • Traveling Ted
    January 12, 2015

    Great to see the French and the world come together in response to this horrendous carnage. These pictures are amazing.

    • Leah Walker
      January 13, 2015

      Thank you, Ted. The response is probably the only good thing to come out of this tragedy.

  • Kieu
    January 13, 2015

    I have been glue’d to the news and media and still trying to comprehend what happened. But the world’s response to this, the unity or the people and their belief in freedom of speech (and religion) is something to be in awe of. My heart really goes out to the victim’s family. The police officer’s story in particular was a hard pill to read, watch and swallow. Your pictures are incredible, thanks for sharing this.

    • Leah Walker
      February 14, 2015

      Thank you, Kieu. It’s really difficult to wrap my head around all of the events.

  • Terry
    January 13, 2015

    Love these photos – especially the one with all the names listed, as well as the ones tucked into the statuettes and figures on the fountains. So telling of the French people and their support. Thank you for sharing your on -the-scene report as it’s quite meaningful.

    • Leah Walker
      February 14, 2015

      The tributes were so special with such thought and meaning.

  • Jenna
    January 13, 2015

    I’m so glad you posted this powerful collection of images from Paris. What a interesting (though sad, but also empowering?) time to be in Paris.

    • Leah Walker
      February 14, 2015

      It’s one of those times that will leave an indelible mark on my memory, mainly for the way the tragic events brought people together.

  • Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal
    January 15, 2015

    I will never be able to wrap my thoughts around these senseless tragedies. They break my heart! Your photos alone say so much and evoke a multitude of emotions. I’m so glad you’ve put them all together hear.

    • Leah Walker
      February 14, 2015

      The events that unfolded were a roller coaster of emotions. I never knew what would happen next. The response was inspiring, not only by the French people, but the world.

  • Travel Adventure
    March 3, 2015

    Thanks Leah for sharing these poignant photos. My sympathy to the victims of this massacre. Hope justice will be served to them. However, despite the tragedy, I still believe France is a beautiful country to visit.

    • Leah Walker
      March 7, 2015

      It was a very stressful, sad, and scary time to be in Paris. It was beautiful to see the country and the world come together in such a trying time.

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