While the world unified in the name of defending free speech against violent extremism in the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris last month, British police were investigating people who purchased copies of Charlie Hebdo magazine.
That shocking revelation is contained in a letter to the Guardian from a woman who bought a copy of the magazine from her local newsagents in Corsham, Wiltshire, and was subsequently told that police had visited the store to obtain the names and addresses of four customers who had purchased the satirical weekly publication.
Islamic extremists gunned down Charlie Hebdo staff members, killing 12 and wounding 11, during an attack on January 7 in response to cartoons the publication had printed depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
“I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire,” wrote Anne Keat.
“To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.”
So instead of focusing their resources on dangerous individuals who may have been inspired by the Paris atrocity to commit more acts of violence in Europe, British police were more interested in spying on innocent people who had purchased the magazine in solidarity with free speech and as a gesture of support for the victims.