#JeSuisCharlie: hundreds of students show solidarity with victims of Paris attacks

Following the attacks in Paris on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Exeter students gathered at the Forum early this afternoon

At 1pm today, hundreds of students met at the Forum piazza clutching signs reading ‘Je Suis Charlie’ and lists of the victims in Paris since the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office on Wednesday.

The event was organized by second year student Clémence Zdziech, who is from Paris herself, and she began by reading a speech she had written about the attacks to the crowd that had gathered on the Forum steps.

The speech, which was read in French, spoke of “giving the middle finger” to extremists, and said that they would continue to fight for democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

This was followed by a reading of the names of the victims of all the attacks, and then a minute of silence.

Led by the many French students in attendance, the crowd then began a rendition of the French national anthem La Marseillaise.

Speaking to Baraa, a Masters IT student from Syria who had taken the floor following an invitation to attendees to make speeches, he said, “There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and they shouldn’t be judged by these terrible events.

“There is a difference between our religion and extremists- we are never taught to do this. I am deeply saddened by these events, they were horrific acts of cruelty.

“I wanted to stand up and speak out against them.”

Baraa, a Muslim IT student, spoke at the event

Edouard De Becker Remy, who helped Clémence run the event and spoke himself, said “I’m very pleased to see so many French students, as I would expect, as well as the wider community of Exeter here.”

When asked why he wanted to help run such an event, the Belgian student said “With #CharlieHebdo, it’s not just about the victims from Wednesday, but rather it’s a marking point of where the attacks began.

“This movement has to be a sign of strength and unity. We’re all together to show that we aren’t scared, and so I think it’s important that we all gather to show that we’re touched by it.”

After a positive reaction after mentioning the idea to some French friends, Clémence decided to take the first step in organizing a gathering for the attacks for personal reasons.

Clémence and Edouard

The second year International Relations student said, “I want to be a reporter, so I wanted to fight for that cause as it’s important to me. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I thought, why not me?”