Czech cities honor French shooting victims, freedom of speech
Today in front of the French Embassy, people in Prague will be able to express their solidarity with the victims of Wednesday's shooting at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, during which 12 people perished. The embassy has announced that the French community in the Czech Republic is convening the assembly.
The Young Social Democrats will also be holding a march against extremism and for freedom of speech that will end up at the embassy. Other cities throughout the Czech Republic are responding to the attack by flying flags at half-mast and sending condolences.
At noon today the embassy, like all of France, observed a minute of silence for the victims, and a book of condolences will be available for signing until Friday there. "Today at 18:30 a large assembly is being planned, organized by the French community together with their Czech friends and movements close to [former Czech President Václav] Havel. There will be candles and singing, I do not believe there will be any speeches," said Hugo Ben Simhon of the embassy's press department.
Another commemoration assembly is scheduled in front of the embassy for Saturday at 16:00. The spokesperson said the embassy would decide today whether to tighten security measures in Prague because of the Paris attack.
People began laying flowers and lighting candles at the embassy yesterday, and today at 19:00 the Young Social Democrats will set out on a march against extremism and for freedom of speech from the People's House to the embassy at 19:00. They intend to honor the shooting victims by lighting candles there.
"Yesterday clearly showed us that we must intensify the fight against terrorism and organized crime. However, we must not diminish our efforts to precisely distinguish who is responsible for these deeds. A specific religion is not to blame, but individuals who committed organized criminal activity - religion is just a pretext to them," the Young Social Democrats said in a statement today.
Some local authorities and town councils in the Czech Republic are flying flags at half-mast in response to the attack. "This is an expression of our sincere condolences to all of the family and friends of the assassinated victims. I will be sending condolence letters to the French Embassy and to the mayor of our partner city of Méty," the mayor of Hradec Králové, Zdeněk Fink, said today.
Mayor Miroslav Adámek also plans to send condolences to Zlín's partner city of Romans-sur-Isere. "The mayor will be sending, on behalf of the city, a letter of condolence to the French Embassy, and we will be lighting candles at the monument to the victims of the 1968 occupation," said Zuzana Minstrová, spokesperson for Liberec town council.
The municipal councils of the Prague 3 and Prague 6 departments either plan to send condolences to the French Embassy or have already done so. A black flag is flying in front of the local authority in Prague 3, while Prague 6 is flying a French flag over its town hall and has lowered the other flags to half mast.
Prague's National Theater is also honoring the murdered journalists. "Our theaters will open performances tonight with a symbolic minute of silence," National Theater spokesperson Tomáš Staněk announced, adding that other Czech theaters would also be doing so.
The Center of Muslim Communities (ÚMO) in the Czech Republic sharply condemned yesterday's terrorist attack on the editorial offices of the Charlie Hebdo weekly, calling it shameful and expressing their deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. They also called for conciliation and moderation.
The ÚMO said the attackers' behavior has nothing to do with Islam. Muneeb Alrawi, chair of the ÚMO, issued the statement yesterday.
Yesterday the Czech Media Union condemned the assassinations. "This most deplorable crime raises the obligation of all journalists worldwide who want to uphold democratic principles and freedom of speech to investigate the real state of affairs, the roots of the evil that leads to such tragic events, much more thoroughly, and to openly call it by its real name," the union's statement reads.
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