Macron decries ‘inexcusable’ 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron / Photo by Levon Bliss for Forbes

Emmanuel Macron has condemned the brutal killing of several dozens of Algerians by Paris police during a protest six decades ago. But the French leader stopped short of issuing a formal apology for the bloody incident.

Macron on Saturday condemned as “inexcusable” the massacre of hundreds of Algerian demonstrators in Paris 60 years ago by French police.

Macron, in a statement, recognized and admitted to state violence on Oct. 17, 1961, where 300 peaceful Algerian protesters were killed.

Although he did not issue a formal apology, the presidential office said he admitted that “the crimes committed that night under the authority of (Paris police prefect) Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic.”

France looks at its entire history with lucidity and recognizes its established responsibilities, the statement added.

Until now, French authorities had denied or concealed the role of police in the suppression and killing of peaceful demonstrators.

In a tribute to victims who were killed and drowned in the Seine River, Macron laid a wreath at the foot of the Pont de Bezons near Nanterre in northern Paris, the site of the tragedy. He also interacted with the families of victims who were present.

The protests were launched by the French wing of Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN) party against a curfew ordered by Papon prohibiting Algerians from venturing out to the streets in the evening.

In a brutal crackdown, police arrested more than 12,000 Algerians — the largest-ever roundup in a single day — and assaulted several hundred men and women, many of whom were killed and thrown into the Seine.

Historians have called the killings a massacre and the state action a coverup or “lies.”

Events leading up to the violence were promptly denied by police and state authorities.

Former Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and previous President Francois Hollande earlier commemorated the day.

Macron’s homage on the 60th commemoration of the event follows the initiation of a series of symbolic gestures of rapprochement toward Algeria, which was colonized by France for 132 years. The Macron administration agreed to set up a “memories and truth” commission upon the recommendation of historian Benjamin Stora and officially recognized the torture and murder of Algerian revolutionary leader Ali Boumendjel by the French army. Macron also sought “forgiveness” from the harkis and their descendants. Hakri is the common term for Muslim Algerians who served in the French army during the War of Independence from 1954 – 1962.

Last week’s statement on Macron’s comments on the Ottoman empire’s occupation of Algeria prior to France, stirred a row and was slammed by Turkey as a cynical attempt by France to cover up its dark colonialist past.

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