Jan 162015

On 7 January 12 members of French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo were gunned down in their offices.   This was a premediated, cold-blooded assassination by radicalised people claiming somehow to have ‘avenged the Prophet Mohammed’.  Following the massacre of the journalists – and others in France unlucky enough to have crossed the path of the murders, worldwide, pan-religion condemnations were issued and rallies held.  Aberdeen, with its considerable French population, joined in with its own rally, organised by Frog in Aberdeen and especially Julie Tchao.  Suzanne Kelly talks to those who attended.


There were many families present, many with French origins. Picture credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen’s Castlegate filled up last Sunday with people of all ages and nationalities to stand together in solidarity for those who lost their lives in Paris, their families and friends. Several hundred people rallied, carrying the flag of France, posters, and signs proclaiming ‘I am Charlie/Je Suis Charlie’ – the ‘I am Spartacus’ slogan adopted for those who express solidarity with the magazine and its use of satire and humour to mock the powerful, corrupt and dangerous.

A small shrine was set up with a candle; a book of condolences was readily filled with comments – it is being sent to Paris.

People also wore pencils on their coats as a symbol of the power of the written word and of satire – a representation that ultimately the pen is mightier than the sword or gun.

Organiser Julie Tchao said:-

“I think it is really excellent the turnout we had today, not only from the French community which is good, but also from Scottish and British people who are like us  shocked and horrified by what happened.  It is really great that on this occasion everyone could gather around a good cause and a peaceful event and share our sorrows but also share the fact we say no to terrorism and yes to freedom of speech.   

“I am really touched by the turnout from a small city like Aberdeen.”

Also attending the event was Domenic Bruce; he commented:-

“I think what has happened is very inhumane and a huge distortion of what Islam is as a religion.  I think all we can do is hope that love and light can diffuse the situation and people come together to help the victims’ families – and well the whole world really.”

There were many families present, many with French origins.  Natalie and here family were one such group.  She commented:-

“We decided to come as a family to show our solidarity with what happened in Paris – the atrocities – and to demonstrate that we want to keep our freedoms.”

Her partner Nick added:-

“It’s too easy for the silent majority to stay silent and that’s why we wanted to be here – remembering what happened – not shouting about it – but quietly supporting the people of France, and supporting freedom.”

The historic Castlegate has seen many events over its many hundreds of years as a gathering place, but no one could have imagined it would be used for such an international, interfaith display of unity as it did that Sunday; the dignity on display and the kindness people showed to each other brings hope.

  •  Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jan 102015

You are invited to meet this Sunday 3pm at the Castlegate to protest against this week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and to stand-up for a free press, free speech, and political satire.  With thanks to Event Organisers French/Anglo group, Frog In Aberdeen, and thanks to  Julie Tchao.

we are charlieFollowing the massacre of cartoonists and editors at the Paris Headquarters of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, a peaceful vigil will take place tomorrow at Aberdeen’s Castlegate area from 3 to 4pm.  The gunmen claimed to be avenging the prophet Mohammed.  The magazine routinely lambasts all forms of hypocrisy and will continue to do so.  It plans to print one million copies of its next edition, due out on Monday.

The gunmen were not taken alive, and further related violent incidents have taken place in France with citizens and police alike killed, irrespective of their religious affiliations.  The magazine has a long-standing tradition of political satire behind it; a tradition in France which goes back at least to the excesses and cruelty of the court of Versailles.

The Facebook Announcement for this event confirms it will be a respectful, dignified affair:-

“Come as you are, with your loved ones to join us in our peaceful protest.   The protest has been organised in agreement with the Council and Police Scotland, This is a peaceful, respectful and non-provocative rally, no misbehaviour will be allowed.”

Organiser Julie Tchao said:-

“There is going to be a huge rally in Paris tomorrow, and the French community in Aberdeen wanted to share this moment in our city, to show our support to the victims of the terrorists attacks that happened this week in Paris. We also want to stand up for freedom of the press, free speech and conscience. We want this rally to be a peaceful and respectful protest, and we would like to invite everybody who would like to join forces with us tomorrow.”

The Facebook page for the event also offers a chance to download posters with the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’ / ‘I Am Charlie’ – the slogan which arose following the deaths in France.  This allows sympathisers to, in an ‘I am Spartacus’ parallel, declare their support. Many social media users have changed their profile pictures to ‘Je Suis Charlie’ in support both of the magazine and the innocent victims – and of the importance of liberty.  The download and further information can be found here.