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Calls for France to apologise for massacre of Algerians in Paris

"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]

President Emmanuel Macron was called on yesterday to officially condemn the crimes of the French state 56 years after the bloody repression of peaceful protests held by Algerians in Paris.

"Colonialism is part of French history, it is a crime against humanity, an actual brutal atrocity and a part of this past that we must face by apologising to those who were subjected to these practices," Macron said during a visit to Algeria in February this year.

A few days ago, the October 17 1961 Association, which consists of a group of historians and civil society activists, sent a letter to Macron urging him to clarify his position on the state crimes that  France committed.

Read: Remembering the massacre of Algerians in Paris

"On the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the state crime committed in downtown Paris, we believe that you can acknowledge this commitment … France has not yet recognised its responsibility in the colonial wars it waged – particularly the Algerian war – nor did it acknowledge its role in the series of tragedies and atrocities these wars left, as was the case with the state crime that occurred on 17 October 1961," the group wrote in the letter.

"Democracy should not be built on lies and blackout," it added. "After half a century, it is time for the President of the Republic, in the name of France, to recognise and condemn – an act which is just symbolic – the responsibility of the French state in the arbitrary imprisonment of Algerians in detention camps during the Algerian war. Everybody, including historians or citizens, must be granted access to the archives, and joint French-Algerian, international and independent historical research into these issues must be encouraged."

The massacre

On 17 October 1961, five months before the end of the Algerian war, a peaceful demonstration of Algerians in Paris was met with repression and bloody violence at the hands of French officials.

Police repressed the march with unprecedented violence, shooting protesters and violently beating women, men and children.

For decades, the French authorities have gone as far as to deny the massacre and, to date, official documents surrounding the matter have not been made public. However there are many who believe the new French president will bring a change to this policy.

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