This is just awful:

At least two masked gun­men stormed the Paris offices of satir­i­cal [French lan­guage] week­ly Char­lie Heb­do on Wednes­day, killing twelve peo­ple and injur­ing eleven more before escap­ing in a car. It was France’s dead­liest ter­ror­ist attack in decades.

Some of France’s most promi­nent car­toon­ists were among the dead, includ­ing the magazine’s direc­tor Stéphane Char­bon­nier, known as “Charb”. Sev­en oth­er jour­nal­ists were killed along with two police offi­cers, a guest at the Char­lie Heb­do offices and the building’s receptionist.

The gun­men report­ed­ly shout­ed “Allahu Akbar” (God is great­est) dur­ing their dead­ly ram­page. Char­lie Heb­do had been a tar­get of Islamist extrem­ists ever since it pub­lished car­toons of the Prophet Mohammed, Islam’s holi­est fig­ure, in 2006. Its pre­vi­ous head­quar­ters were fire­bombed in 2011.

Char­lie Heb­do has long had a rep­u­ta­tion of tak­ing aim at sacred cows. In many respects, it is sim­i­lar to The Onion, which went online-only over a year ago. It is a bea­con of pro­gres­sive thought in France.

Its staff were (and still are) prac­ti­tion­ers of free expres­sion. They did­n’t just believe in the idea of free speech and a free press; they lived it. And for that, they were tar­get­ed by fanat­i­cal, rad­i­cal­ized fun­da­men­tal­ists who believe par­o­dies of the founder of their reli­gion mer­it death at the bar­rel of a gun.

We at NPI join with the read­ers of Char­lie Heb­do today in offer­ing our deep­est con­do­lences to the staff of those killed, and the police offi­cers who lost their lives in the line of fire try­ing to pro­tect them. And we pray for the heal­ing and the recov­ery of the near­ly dozen more peo­ple who were wounded.

When­ev­er free­dom of speech, free­dom of the press, and free­dom of expres­sion come under attack, they must be defend­ed. Per­haps Franklin Roo­sevelt said it best: Ulti­mate­ly, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Now is the time for the peo­ple of France to show steely resolve, not panic.

The French police have launched a man­hunt for the attack­ers who got away. Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve told the press that “all the resources of the jus­tice sys­tem and Inte­ri­or Min­istry have been mus­tered… [The ter­ror­ists] will be pun­ished with the sever­i­ty that the bru­tal­i­ty of their acts deserve.”

We wish them every suc­cess and we know the good peo­ple of Paris and France will lend a will­ing hand in assist­ing the author­i­ties catch these vio­lent extremists.

Appro­pri­ate­ly, polit­i­cal car­toon­ists around the world have begun respond­ing, using their arts to show their sol­i­dar­i­ty with the vic­tims of the attack.

Je suis Char­lie (I am Char­lie) has become a ral­ly­ing cry across continents.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma issued a state­ment ear­li­er today in response to the attacks on behalf of the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States of America.

“I strong­ly con­demn the hor­rif­ic shoot­ing at the offices of Char­lie Heb­do mag­a­zine in Paris that has report­ed­ly killed twelve peo­ple,” the Pres­i­dent said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the vic­tims of this ter­ror­ist attack and the peo­ple of France at this dif­fi­cult time. France is America’s old­est ally, and has stood shoul­der to shoul­der with the Unit­ed States in the fight against ter­ror­ists who threat­en our shared secu­ri­ty and the world. Time and again, the French peo­ple have stood up for the uni­ver­sal val­ues that gen­er­a­tions of our peo­ple have defended.”

“France, and the great city of Paris where this out­ra­geous attack took place, offer the world a time­less exam­ple that will endure well beyond the hate­ful vision of these killers. We are in touch with French offi­cials and I have direct­ed my Admin­is­tra­tion to pro­vide any assis­tance need­ed to help bring these ter­ror­ists to justice.”

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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