Denmark: Attack on public meeting about art, blasphemy and freedom of expression

14 February 2015


A 55-year-old film director was killed and three police officers injured after an armed man opened fire inside the lobby of a café in Copenhagen where a public debate meeting was being held in the theatre next to the lobby.

Bullets went through doors and windows, and everyone threw themselves to the floor. The French Ambassador to Denmark, who participated in the meeting, tweeted soon after that he was “Still alive in the room”.

The Copenhagen event, titled ‘Art, blasphemy and freedom of expression’ featured a panel discussion about the limitations of freedom of speech and artistic expression in the wake of the 7 January massacre at the Charlie Hebdo paper in Paris. The panelists were discussing whether any limits should be placed on artistic expression.

The invitation to the event said:

“Where is the limit? Is there any limit? Should one be putting one’s life as an artist and activist on the line? Does art with a political message overshadow the artistic expression? Do we have the right to be blasphemous? And dare we be, after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo?”

The meeting was organised by the Lars Vilks Committee. Lars Vilks is the controversial Swedish artist who has faced death threats for caricaturing the prophet Muhammad. He was in the panel at the meeting together with Agnieszka Kolek, artist og curator of the Passion for Freedom Arts Festival, and Inna Shevchenko, leader of the feminist group FEMEN.

“Freemuse strongly condemns the attack in Copenhagen,” said Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov. “The main clashes of our time are not between civilisations, but within civilisations. How do we create a non-violent dialogue where we fight with words, not with guns?”

Over the years, several controversies related to religion and artistic expressions have been documented and analysed by Freemuse. For instance, watch the session on ‘Religion and artistic freedom’ from the world conference on artistic freedom in Oslo 2012, which is posted on

Next week Freemuse will publish its 2014 statistics on attacks against artists. An overview of 2014-attacks against musicians has already been published at

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» CBC – 15 February 2015:
UPDATED | Copenhagen attacks: Danish police kill suspect following fatal shootings

» New York Times / Associated Press – 14 February 2015:
1 Dead in Copenhagen Cafe Shooting in ‘Likely’ Terror Attack

» BBC World – 14 February 2015:
Copenhagen free speech debate shooting: One dead

» The Guardian – 15 February 2015:
One dead and three injured in Copenhagen ‘terrorist attack’

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