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Remembering the massacre of Algerians in Paris

Fifty-five years ago today, hundreds of Algerians were massacred by French police and had their bodies thrown in the River Seine.
"Here we drown Algerians" sign on Saint-Michel Bridge in Paris in 1961. Dozens of bodies were later pulled from the River Seine. [Wikipedia]
"Here we drown Algerians" sign on Saint-Michel Bridge in Paris in 1961. Dozens of bodies were later pulled from the River Seine. [Wikipedia]

What: Paris Massacre

When: 17 October 1961

Where: Paris, France

What Happened?

On 5 October 1961, a curfew was imposed from 20:30 to 05.30 on Paris for “Algerian Muslim workers”, “French Muslims” and “French Muslims of Algeria”. The French Federation of the Algerian National Liberation Front called on Algerians in Paris to demonstrate peacefully against the curfew on 17 October 1961.

Paris police chief, Maurice Papon, assembled 7,000 policemen and riot police to block the demonstration and all access to the capital. Between 30,000-40,000 Algerians joined the demonstration as police raids were carried out all over Paris where 11,000 Algerians were arrested and transported to internment centres.

Those who remained in the demonstration where soon met by gunfire from police officers on the Neuilly bridge. Those that were injured were drowning and the bodies of the dead were thrown into the River Seine below. Around 200-300 Algerians died as a result of the police repression.

What Happened Next?

Papon would later be convicted of crimes against humanity for his part in deporting Jews to death camps during the Nazi occupation. The officers under his command who perpetrated the massacre had served in Algeria and had been linked to the deportation of Jews in the city for the Gestapo 19 years earlier.

In 1998 France finally recognised the events of 17 October as a massacre however no one was prosecuted for their participation in the killings due to the general amnesty for crimes committed during the Algerian War.

In 2001, the event was officially acknowledged in Paris by the unveiling of a memorial plaque near the Pont Saint-Michel and on 7 October 2012, President François Hollande acknowledged the 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris.

Ceremony of commemoration in Paris

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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