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France massacre: Paris protesters mark 1961 bloody police crackdown anniv.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People hold a banner during a rally to commemorate the brutal repression of an Oct 17, 1961 demonstration during which at least 120 Algerians were killed during a protest to support Algerian independence, near the Pont Neuf bridge, on October 17, 2021 in Paris, France. (Via AFP)

Protesters have taken to the streets in the French capital Paris to mark the 60th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on Algerian protesters.

The demonstrators carried Algerian flags and banners as they marched towards Pont Saint-Michel, one of the oldest stone bridges in the center of the capital on Sunday, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron only acknowledged that a massacre of Algerians by his country’s police 60 years ago was "inexcusable,” during in a memorial ceremony.

Activists had hoped for an even stronger recognition of responsibility, with Gilles Manceron, a French historian and member of the League for Human Rights (LDH), which called the rally, saying Macron's comments represented "a small step" but not satisfactory.

He also said they want recognition that the repression constituted a state crime as well as access to the archives.

On the night of October 17, 1961, some 30,000 Algerians living in Paris demonstrated peacefully in the center of the capital to support Algerian independence and voice their opposition against a strict curfew imposed on them. The protests were called by the National Liberation Front (FLN).  

But as night fell, witnesses recall seeing people shot with live ammunition and killed when police charged into the crowd.

The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.

The massacre occurred during a rally that was called in the final year of France's increasingly violent attempt to retain Algeria as a north African colony.

France has so far refused to officially apologize to Algeria as a state for its colonial crimes.

During the memorial ceremony at a park on the Paris outskirts on Saturday, Macron condemned the crimes committed that night under the command of the notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon, saying, "This tragedy was long hushed-up, denied or concealed." 

However, the French president stopped short of issuing a formal apology after decades of cover-up.  

Activists hoped Macron, the first president born in the post-colonial era, would go further than his predecessor François Hollande, who acknowledged in 2012 that protesting Algerians had been "killed during a bloody repression". 

Crime against humanity

Algerian President Abdelmadjidn Tebboune has dismissed the massacre as a crime against humanity, calling for an approach free of “colonialist thought” on historical issues between his country and France.

"I reaffirm our strong concern for treating issues of history and memory without complacency or compromising principles, and with a sharp sense of responsibility", free from "the dominance of arrogant colonialist thought," Tebboune said in a statement released by his office on the 60th anniversary of the deadly Paris police crackdown.

The bloodshed revealed the horror of "massacres and crimes against humanity that will remain engraved in the collective memory,” he added.

The statement came shortly after Tebboune declared that Algeria would observe a minute's silence each October 17 in memory of the victims.

The gas-rich country won its independence from France in 1962 after a bloody military struggle.

Macron’s acknowledgment came amid an ongoing diplomatic row between Paris and Algiers that was triggered by his controversial remarks earlier this month that Algeria had an "official history" which had been "totally re-written." 

Algeria has recalled its ambassador from Paris and banned French military planes from its airspace. Tebboune has demanded France's "total respect".


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