Remembering the 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris

Remembering the 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris
Many gathered on Tuesday to remember the events of October 17, 1961, when French police shot and killed more than 300 Algerians in Paris for demonstrating against a discriminatory curfew.
3 min read
19 October, 2016
Dozens gathered on Tuesday above the Saint-Michel Bridge in Paris
Dozens gathered on Tuesday above the Saint-Michel Bridge in Paris to mark the 55-year anniversary of the massacre of more than 300 Algerians in the French capital in 1961.

A minute silence was observed during the ceremony, which was attended by the first deputy mayor of Paris and dozens of French Algerians, as well as ambassadors from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen and Palestine.

"For too long, the collective memory of our country has denied this massacre and after many generations, we are now determined to remember those hundreds of Algerians killed on this day and pay tribute to them for defending an ideal", Bruno Julliard, first deputy mayor of Paris, told the press at the commemoration ceremony.

"This commemoration ceremony is very important because we pay tribute to hundreds of victims. Now, it is very important that members of elected assemblies in Paris pay tribute to the victims of this bloody repression, a massacre that dates back to 55 years," Julliard said.

In 1961, thousands of French Algerians took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate against a discriminatory curfew imposed by the French authorities on Algerian Muslim workers.

The protesters, which included women and children, were met by French riot police who opened fire at them, killing over 300 and pushing dozens into the Sein River that flows through the heart of Paris.

Thousands of protesters were held by French police in a nearby stadium with allegations of beatings and torture. For many, it was the bloodiest day in Paris since the French revolution.

For many, it was the bloodiest day in Paris since the French revolution

But attending Tuesday's ceremony to mark the memory of the massacre was not enough.

"How can we speak of the massacre of hundreds of people but not talk about accountability and who stood behind it?" Youssef Boussoumah, member of the Indigenes de la Republique party in France told The New Arab.

"The truth is the massacre was carried out by the police in Paris who acted under the orders of Maurice Papon who was under the command of Michel Debre and himself under the command of General Charles de Gaulle. Therefore, de Gaulle was directly responsible for the massacre.

"Everyone here wants an inquiry to look into the massacre, in respect for those who lost their lives and for their families and for the Algerian community in France," Boussoumah said.

"Today's ceremony is not to shed a few tears and place flowers over the River Seine, but to call for an inquiry into the events of October 17, 1961 and for accountability."

Others attending the ceremony agreed.

"Like many others, I do not come here just to remember the event but to demand the truth about what happened," Ahmad Murabit told The New Arab, "We want to know how many Algerians died, who where they and what did the French authorities do with their bodies?"

The 1961 incident was not officially recognised by the French authorities as a state crime until 2012, when President Francois Hollande finally acknowledged France's responsibility for the massacre in a quiet press release.