Over 80 rock music concertgoers are reported to have been shot dead in Paris. On 13 November 2015, 1,500 fans were attending a concert with the Californian rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the popular music venue Bataclan in Paris, France, when it was attacked by terrorist gunmen, and concertgoers were taken hostage.
The attack took place a few hours after key players from the world of culture debated the status of artists and freedom of artistic expression at a special side event, held on the sidelines of the 38th session of the General Conference at UNESCO Headquarters.
There were simultaneous terrorist attacks five other places in Paris, with dozens of people killed and dozens more injured. France is declared in a state of emergency.
“This is a very dark day for democracies and open societies,” said Freemuse Director Ole Reitov. “Freedom of artistic expressions includes the rights for the public to access music events without fear. The attacks in Paris are directed towards the very core of human rights and human values.”
Addressing delegates from all over the world, the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said at the meeting on Friday that she believes “we need multi-faceted strategies to support artistic freedom.”
“Shooting blindly at the crowd”
“The band had been on the stage for an hour and the music was loud. Heavy metal loud. Not loud enough, however, to mask the sound of gunfire,” The Guardian reported shortly after the attack.
Julien Pierce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, was inside the club in the 11th district of the capital when the shooting started. He said: “Two or three men, without masks, came in with Kalashnikov-type automatic weapons and began shooting blindly at the crowd … it lasted 10, 15 minutes. It was extremely violent and there was a wave of panic.”
The armed men were literally pumping bullets into the crowd, witnesses said. One said the attackers also threw grenades into the crowd. Tickets had been sold out in the 1,500 seat concert hall.
“When they started shooting, we just saw flashes,” a witness named Gwen told French BFM-TV. “People got down on the ground right away. It was all dark.”
In the scramble to survive, people climbed into the upper boxes of the hall, or cowered under seats. The musicians quickly fled the stage.
“Everyone was running in all directions towards the stage. It was a stampede and even I was trampled. I saw a lot of people hit by bullets. The gunmen had loads of time to reload at least three times. They weren’t masked, they knew what they were doing, they were very young,” Pierce said. He told the attackers had “not said a word”, but other witnesses spoke of hearing the gunmen shout: “This is for Syria.”
At midnight, police said several hundred concertgoers inside the Bataclan were being held hostage by an unknown number of gunmen. Outside the Bataclan, bodies lay in the street covered by sheets thrown from flats above.
“Just after midnight, French special forces launched an assault on the Bataclan in an attempt to free the hostages. There were bursts of gunfire and several explosions. At 1am, police announced the operation was over and three gunmen had been killed. French media reported that as many as 100 people had been killed inside the club,” wrote The Guardian. It is the worst death toll from a single attack in France’s modern history – the deadliest attack on Paris since World War II.
Three of the attackers at the Bataclan rock venue allegedly blew themselves up with suicide belts as police closed in, killing a fourth attacker.
Pierce managed to escape the building and reported seeing “a dozen bodies on the ground in pools of blood, including a young girl who had been hit by two bullets. I carried her 50 metres to the emergency services.”
“It’s a horror”
“At the time I’m speaking, terrorist attacks on an unprecedented scale are taking place in Paris. There are dozens of deaths. It’s a horror,” said a visibly shaken French president Hollande in a national address from the Elysée palace.
Eagles of Death Metal’s Facebook statement
Eagles of Death Metal had been scheduled to end its 32-city European tour in December 2015 with a stop in Portugal. They had played only 11 of those dates before the attacks in Paris, but in a statement on Facebook they said that all future concerts were on hold:
“While the band is now home safe, we are horrified and still trying to come to terms with what happened in France. Our thoughts and hearts are first and foremost with our brother Nick Alexander, our record company comrades Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez, and all the friends and fans whose lives were taken in Paris, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones.
Although bonded in grief with the victims, the fans, the families, the citizens of Paris, and all those affected by terrorism, we are proud to stand together, with our new family, now united by a common goal of love and compassion.
We would like to thank the French police, the FBI, the U.S. and French State Departments, and especially all those at ground zero with us who helped each other as best they could during this unimaginable ordeal, proving once again that love overshadows evil.
All EODM shows are on hold until further notice.
Vive la musique, vive la liberté, vive la France, and vive EODM.”
Threatened artistic freedom
At Friday’s meeting on the sidelines of the 38th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, Ole Reitov presented Freemuse statistics on attacks on artists’ freedom from 2014 and the multifacetted ways artistic freedom is threatened.
Special guests at the meeting apart from Ole Reitov included Deeyah Khan, Film Director, Music Producer and Human Rights Activist and Mika Romanus, Deputy Director-General of the Swedish Arts Council.
Photo on top of this page: Eagles of Death Metal
Photo above: Screendump of Eagles of Death Metal’s Facebook page
This page was updated on 20 November 2015. Presumably inspired by the band’s name, Eagles of Death Metal, their performance at Bataclan was first described by several news outlets as a ‘heavy metal concert’. This has now been corrected. The band call themselves a ‘rock band’ on their Facebook page. Wikipedia also calls it an American ‘rock band’. Their music is a mix of rock and pop with a slice of blues – not heavy metal.
“The attackers, whomever they may be and whatever their motives, went after the heart of progressive Paris. They did not attack the more touristy Champs-Elysées or Notre Dame, or the more bourgeois and conservative left bank, where most of the government ministries are located.”
“When terrorists fired on the musicians and audience of a concert taking place at the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, it left musicians, music lovers and organisers of music in shock and mourning. But music can also be a tool for reconciliation and peace and now, more than ever, music is needed to bring people together regardless of their cultural differences or religion.
We will keep creating, producing, presenting, listening to and take pleasure, consolation and sustenance from the enrichment that music brings to all our lives. We will make music more beautifully, and with more devotion and passion than ever before.”
Excerpt of a statement in IMC Communiqué: The International Music Council condemns terrorist attacks worldwide
» About Heavy Metal on freemuse.org
» Twitter: #Bataclan
Bono talks to 2fm’s Dave Fanning about Paris attacks
» The New York Times – 20 November 2015:
Paris Victims, Remembered
» The Guardian – 19 November 2015:
Eagles of Death Metal issue statement following Paris terror attacks
» The Independent – 14 November 2015:
Bono: The Paris attacks are the first ‘direct hit’ on music by Islamic terrorists
» The Age – 14 November 2015:
Paris siege: Eagles of Death Metal, the band who played at the Bataclan concert
» The Guardian – 14 November 2015:
Attack at Paris’s Bataclan: ‘two or three men began shooting blindly at crowd’
» CNN – 13 November 2015:
Video: Julien Pearce, a radio reporter that witnessed the terrorist attack at a Paris theatre tells CNN’s Wolf Blitzerchilling details of the attack
» New York Times – 13 November 2015:
‘Scene of Carnage’ Inside Sold-Out Paris Concert Hall
» The Independent – 13 November 2015:
Paris attacks: Eagles of Death Metal escape Paris attack, 100 hostages killed after police storm concert venue
» Rolling Stone – 13 November 2015:
Eagles of Death Metal Issue Statement on Paris Attack