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Copenhagen shooting: we debated free speech despite the gunfire – we will not surrender

14 February 2015

7:16 PM

14 February 2015

7:16 PM

I was invited to Lars Vilks* Committee in Copenhagen to present Passion for Freedom London Art Festival. The committee is organised annually, on the anniversary of Salman Rushdie’s fatwa. The meeting started with a short introduction from one of the organizers followed by François Zimeray, the French ambassador, commemorating Charlie Hebdo and discussing the challenges that we face when it comes to the threats to freedom of speech and democracy in our countries.

After a short introduction, Inna Shevchenko opened the panel and started to talk about Femen and her work. She also discussed her close friendship with Charb, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, and how they both stood strong exercising their right to freedom of expression. A few minutes into her speech we heard separate bangs.


It sounded like crackers. Everyone was sitting and Inna was speaking as the bangs turned into a shower of bullets. It sounded like a machine gun. There was lots of shouting in Danish, the security shouted that Lars should evacuate, everyone started to run or hide. A few people remained sitting. I slid behind the stage to hide.

After the shooting subdued everyone started to come together. We decided to continue with the presentation. I presented Passion for Freedom’s work and we took a few questions from the audience. Everyone thanked us that we continued. We will not surrender; they cannot kill all of us.

Agnieszka Kolek is an organiser of the annual international festival ‘Passion for Freedom’

Lars Vilks, 67, is a Swedish cartoonish who has survived two attempts on his life after depicting Mohammed. The Lars Vilks Committee was set up to support him and organised the event, at which he was present. 

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