Raleigh, the world, gather in support of freedom of speech
Posted January 11, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — As news of the massacre at a French satirical newspaper and subsequent hunt for the attackers unfolded last week, all Grace Ramanivosoa could do was watch from her television.
"The fact that it happened when we're not there to support our family, to support our country, to support our friends,” she said. “We feel terribly sad to not be there with them.”
Ramanivosoa, a French student spending a semester at N.C. State University, was among about 150 people who gathered in Moore Square Sunday for a “freedom gathering” to “show support for liberty and freedom of speech.” Organized by the local French Consulate, the event was held simultaneously with an event in Paris that some officials described as the largest demonstration in French history.
Two police officers were among 12 killed Wednesday when Amedy Coulibaly and brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the newsroom of Charlie Hebdo. The satirical weekly newspaper often criticized all religions with its sometimes crude satire. Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen said it directed the attack to avenge the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, a frequent target of the satire, according to media reports.
Officials said Coulibaly also killed a policewoman on Thursday before seizing hostages at a Paris kosher store on Friday while the Kouachi brothers were simultaneously in a standoff at a printing plant near Charles de Gaulle airport. All three gunmen were killed in police raids. Four people in the kosher store were also killed.
The deadly week comes less than a month after a gunman believed to have Islamic militant ties and two captives were killed at a Sydney café after a standoff lasting more than 16 hours.
As millions rallied across the world for peace and freedom of expression on Sunday, those in Raleigh shared similar sentiments.
"I guess it really touched upon the base of French society and values - freedom of speech, especially, is the one that bothers you," said Immanuel Varenne, a French native who has lived in Raleigh for two years.
The Paris rally was led by 40 world leaders, including foes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The event also marked a first for Marie-Claire Ribeill, the Honorary Consul of France for North Carolina.
“My mom is 77, and she has never demonstration, and today she was on the streets of Paris,” said Ribeill, who organized Raleigh’s rally.
For Manon Sacqueg, also studying abroad at N.C. State, Sunday’s rally enabled him to have a connection with home while in North Carolina.
"It's nice because we've felt very removed from the situation,” she said. “We see the images, we hear the friends and family talk to us about what's happening over there, but it's really quiet here."