France Arrests Dozens of People for Hate Speech and ‘Glorifying’ Terrorism

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People hold placards reading in French "I am Charlie" during a gathering at the Place de la Republique (Republic square) in Paris, on January 7, 2015, following an attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. France's Muslim leadership sharply condemned the shooting at the Paris satirical weekly that left at least 12 people dead as a "barbaric" attack and an assault on press freedom and democracy.
Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

As its citizens continue to rally around their much-celebrated right to free expression, the Associated Press reports that France has begun a “crackdown on hate speech, anti-Semitism, and glorifying terrorism.” So far, 54 people have been arrested, and some have already been punished “under special measures for immediate sentencing.”

Among those taken into custody was Dieudonné M’bala M’bal, a comedian with a history of racism and anti-Semetism convictions. (Popularizing a hand gesture that resembles a Nazi salute is one of his claims to fame.) Dieudonné was busted over a (since deleted) Monday night Facebook post in which he wrote that he felt “like Charlie Coulibaly” — a reference to the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan and Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who killed four people in a kosher grocery store after the Charlie Hebdo attack. In another post,
Dieudonné addressed the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, writing, “Whenever I speak, you do not try to understand what I’m trying to say, you do not want to listen to me. You are looking for a pretext to forbid me. You consider me like Amedy Coulibaly when I am not any different from Charlie.” 

A spokesperson also told reporters that in addition to the stepped-up hate-speech enforcement, the French government is “broadening” its legal ability to tap phones and use other types of intelligence-gathering methods for the purpose of detecting threats. Sound familiar?