Police protection would have saved Charlie Hebdo victims, says Manchester Uni lecturer

The shooting at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo could have been prevented by police competency, according to a French lecturer at the University of Manchester.

Police protection had been in place for editors and journalists at the magazine’s offices, which were firebombed in an attack in 2011.

Jonathan Hensher, a French Studies lecturer, spoke to MM about the supposed protection.

He said: “Usually there had been a police car stationed underneath the offices, where the attack happened.

“For some reason, that protection was removed a few weeks ago, so there were no police outside. There’s no way it could’ve happened if they had had that patrol out there.”

There are now fears in France of repeat attacks, which are only growing as reports come in of a man linked to the attack taking five hostages in a Parisian kosher market.

“The French don’t have a particularly high opinion of their police force,” said Mr Hensher.

“They don’t seem to be acting particularly competently either, in terms of the original protection and then the actual events that have unfolded.”

The lecturer also expressed his concerns over France’s right-wing political party, the National Front, who have capitalised on the event to further their ‘anti-immigrant, anti-European’ ideologies.

The lecturer added: “An awful lot of French people fear, in particular, the ‘Islam-isation’ of French society – however irrational their fear might be. The National Front has really made enormous capital on that.”

Manchester’s French community feel further attacks are a ‘distinct possibility’ following yesterday’s shooting of 27-year-old policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe.

Her killer has now been linked to the same Jihadist group as the Kouachi brothers, chief suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

“It’s a real shock, particularly for people who grew up all their lives reading these things and enjoying these cartoons,” Mr Hensher said.

“They feel part of their political family has gone. It’s a real attack on freedom of speech.

“Charlie Hebdo is extremely famous – any French person knows it and knows what it stands for, which is radical freedom of speech and criticism of authority.”

The magazine was known for exposé articles and ‘radical atheist ethos’, though Mr Hensher expressed concern that not everyone knew exactly what they were supporting.

“I don’t think some of the supporters really know what Charlie Hebdo is,” he said.

“But in terms of protection for freedom of speech, I think the French community feel heartened and thankful for the support they’ve received from around the world.”

A vigil in honour of the Charlie Hebdo shooting victims was held last night at 6pm in Piccadilly Gardens. The night before, an unofficial vigil also took place in their memory. 

Image courtesy of Pierre-Selim, with thanks.

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