California Mourns Charlie Hebdo Attack, Defies Islamists

Solidarity with Charlie Hebdo in San Francisco (AP)
AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez

Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the streets across California in spontaneous protests against the Islamist attack on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, which claimed the lives of 12 journalists, cartoonists, security personnel and police officers. The demonstrators expressed their solidarity with the newspaper, with the French people, with freedom of expression–and against radical Islam.

In San Francisco, hundreds gathered at an impromptu vigil Wednesday evening at the French consulate–one that had police scrambling to erect barricades to manage the sudden crowd. Demonstrators held pens aloft and arranged flowers on the ground in the shape of the words, “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”), according to the San Francisco Chronicle. One demonstrator, originally from France, told the Chronicle: ““They were always sarcastic and rebellious, but against every point of view….These attackers shot our freedom, our journalism, our voice, but I’m not angry. All I feel is sadness.”

In Los Angeles, crowds gathered outside a popular local French restaurant, Figaro Café, expressing their shock, outrage and solidarity. Many French expatriates were among the demonstrators. One told local CBS News affiliate KCAL-9: “We heard this morning about the story. I think it’s crazy. Like, when I woke up this morning, I got like thousands of messages from my friends.”

In Sacramento, according to local Fox affiliate FOX-40, local Muslim leaders condemned the attack. “Even though the magazine had been vilifying the Islamic faith, this is not how you react. God has forbidden people to take any human life. And it is not permitted to take somebody’s life just because you are angry at them. We need to marginalize the extremists because they stand against freedoms of faith,” said Dr. Irfan Haq, President of the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations.

Attendees at a local French class shared their grief. One, a local cartoonist, said that “as a cartoonist I was also strangely proud of the people at Charlie Hebdo for persisting in speaking freely despite the threats that they had faced beforehand, and it was just absolutely tragic that what happened happened.”