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October 17, 1961: hundreds of demonstrators in Paris, 60 years after a “state crime”

A few hundred demonstrators – 1,800 according to the authorities – took to the streets of Paris this Sunday, October 17, chanting “October 17, 1961, state crime”, sixty years to the day after the massacre of Algerians who came to demonstrate peacefully in the capital against a curfew.

The environmental candidate for the Élysée Yannick Jadot participated in the parade, like the number one of EELV Julien Bayou or the deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis Éric Coquerel (LFI).

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Behind the banner “For the recognition of a state crime”, the procession left from the 2nd arrondissement of Paris towards the Pont Saint-Michel (6th arrondissement), located a stone’s throw from the police headquarters, which had organized on October 17, 1961 the repression of the demonstration of Algerians.

October 17, 1961, the memory of a long hidden French crime

Saturday October 16, on the banks of the Seine, Emmanuel Macron had participated in a solemn commemoration. Above all, the head of state said in a statement: “The crimes committed that night under the authority of Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic”, designating the one who was at the time prefect of police of Paris.

A request for “real access to the archives”

“It’s a small step further, but it’s not satisfactory”historian Gilles Manceron, one of the leaders of the Human Rights League (LDH), who called for demonstrations, told AFP. “It is an acknowledgment of a prefecture crime. We demand recognition of a state crime and real access to archives ”, added this specialist in the memory of the Algerian War, in the procession.

“It’s a gesture but we know very well that Papon did not act on his own referee. We cannot act without political order. There was a responsibility at the top of the French state ”, also insisted a 45-year-old protester, Othmane Benzaghou, activist, member of the Hirak collectives.

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“Methods worthy of the Gestapo”: the massacre of October 17, 1961 recounted in “l’Obs”

On October 17, 1961, some 30,000 Algerians demonstrated peacefully at the FLN’s appeal against the curfew imposed on them. The French presidency recognized on Saturday for the first time that “Nearly 12 000 Algerians were arrested and transferred to sorting centers at the Coubertin stadium, the Sports Palace and other places. In addition to many wounded, several dozen were killed, their bodies thrown into the Seine ”. The official toll has so far only counted three victims.

The call to demonstrate this Sunday for the 60th anniversary had been signed by dozens of organizations and associations (LDH, SOS Racisme, Mrap, Attac, Gisti, etc.), unions and parties (EELV, LFI, PCF …).

At least 1,800 people, according to the authorities, demonstrated on Sunday in the capital, chanting “October 17, state crime” and “Open the archives, from Paris to Algiers”.

Only small groups were able to access the Pont au Change to throw roses in the Seine. “In memory of all those who were murdered,” said one.

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The call to demonstrate had been signed by dozens of organizations and associations (LDH, SOS Racisme, Mrap, Attac, Gisti, etc.), unions and left-wing parties (EELV, LFI, PCF … ).

“Soothe memories”

Other demonstrations took place this Sunday in France, bringing together 200 people in Toulouse behind the banner “A colonial massacre”. In Strasbourg, about sixty demonstrators threw red roses in the Ill while in Bordeaux, a hundred threw white roses in the Garonne.

“We have neither hatred nor revenge, we just want to appease memories”, slipped to AFP Saïd Boudjema, the president of the Franco-Algerian Federation Aquitaine Plus, which organized the Bordeaux tribute.

The left, LFI, EELV and PCF in the lead, continues to demand recognition of a “state crime”. “The president missed the opportunity to take one more step towards reconciliation,” tweeted the environmental candidate for the presidential election Yannick Jadot who was taking part in the Parisian parade.

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The PS mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, also a presidential candidate, gathered on the Saint-Michel bridge, in front of the stele “in memory of the many Algerians killed during the bloody repression” that she had inaugurated in 2019 .

On the right, “there were victims on both sides”

Candidate for the nomination of the Republicans for the presidential election, Valérie Pécresse told the Grand Jury LCI-RTL-Le Figaro qualified the past repression of “Tragedy”. “But I would have liked the President of the Republic to associate with the memory of the victims of this demonstration that of the 22 French police officers who lost their lives in the FLN attacks that same year 1961.”

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Michel Barnier, who also hopes to wear the colors of the right in the presidential election, estimated on CNews, Europe1 and Les Echos: “We have a duty of truth after a tragedy of this nature which is not excusable”, but during the Algerian war “There were victims on both sides” and “I would not give in repentance”.

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