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Beheading of Samuel Paty Spurs Protests Across France

Protesters have gathered in cities across France to defend free speech and to denounce violence against educators, as a response to the beheading of middle-school teacher Samuel Paty. 

On October 16th at approximately 5:00 pm, 47-year-old Samuel Paty was killed on a street near the school where he taught. As he was leaving the school, he was followed by an 18 year old man who would attack and behead him using a 12 inch long knife. 

The perpetrator’s name was Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov. Anzorov took credit for the murder, posting a picture of Paty on Twitter shortly after it was done. Minutes later, the police arrived on the scene and shot Anzorov nine times, killing him. 

Anzorov did not have any known connection with the teacher or the school, but was motivated by the fact that Samuel Paty had shown his students caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, depicting him in a disrespectful way. 

The cartoons were published in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and were shown as part of a class Paty taught on freedom of expression. He had organized a lesson around the cartoons and prompted a discussion about them in class every year since the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015. 

In 2015, 17 people were killed in a terror attack that lasted 3 days and began in Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, in response to the magazine’s publishing of the cartoons of the prophet. At the time, this event brought up the issue of Islamism and religious equality and caused anti-muslim rhetoric to become increasingly common in the country. 

The recent murder of Samuel Paty over these same cartoons caused shock and horror both in France and internationally and reignited the conflict on secularism in France.

Since then, emotional demonstrations have taken place across France, to pay tribute to Samuel Paty and to celebrate freedom of speech. French President Emmanuel Macron said Paty was “killed because he was teaching students freedom of speech, the freedom to believe and not believe.”

Moreover, President Macron announced the government would crack down on extremist Islamists. He said French citizens have to be protected from radical Islamism, which aims “to turn some of our citizens against the Republic, because of their religion. We will not let this happen.”

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