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Raleigh, the world, gather in support of freedom of speech

Posted January 11, 2015

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— 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."

56 Comments

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  • Joseph Shepard Jan 14, 2015
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    Freedom of speech? does this mean that all this politically correct garbage is going to go away, and people can speak their minds and possibly actually tell the truth for a change??

  • icdmbpppl Jan 13, 2015

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    He's admitted he made a mistake, so all of you apologists can stop making excuses for this bumbler.

  • Kenny Dunn Jan 12, 2015
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    OK, I'm confused. Which religion are you referring to again with you last line? Should we blame all Catholics for the heinous acts of some in the clergy?

  • bach1 Jan 12, 2015

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    Agreed 100%

  • Monkey_Joe Jan 12, 2015

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    That is ridiculous. It did not go too far. Nobody should be killed for putting something on a page or saying something. When that happens, we all need to stand up for freedom. Yes, you might not agree with what is said but if you can't defend freedom, who will defend yours? Will you censor yourself if you offend me? What is the limit to censorship in the guise of political correctness?

  • glarg Jan 12, 2015

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    Isnt it a possibility that they both went too far?

    Charlie's hate speech shouldnt be illegal but neither should it be celebrated.

  • Sarcoi Dosis Jan 12, 2015
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    I saw it.. But would you go to a public place where you would likely become a target of extremists? Send a representative, but not the leader of the free world.

  • sinenomine Jan 12, 2015

    The question, HILL55, isn't whether the press went too far. The question is whether Muslim terrorists went too far in killing people over a cartoon. Once you allow violence every time a person gets upset over something published in the paper you have buried freedom of speech forever.

    Freedom of speech for political purposes (in other words, NOT for shouting fire in a crowded theater for example) is an absolute. I stand with the late Justice Black who famously said "when the First Amendment says 'no law' it means 'no law'".

  • Sarcoi Dosis Jan 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Freedom of Speech is a Myth. Just post something offensive on Facebook and see how quickly you will be Fired from your job, Arrested, or even worse. I closed my FB account 2 years ago. Was tired of reading about the trouble people were getting into for comments posted there. You may think you are communicating with Friends, but there is nothing private about FB.
    We no longer live in a country where you can say whatever is on your mind and get away with it.

  • sinenomine Jan 12, 2015

    The media, incidentally, is NOT being silent regarding Obama's absence from Paris. I don't know what it says now but earlier Monday cnn.com was emblazoned with a banner headline which read "WHERE WAS OBAMA?"

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