French MPs pave way for day to mark 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris

By Paul Myers - RFI
Algeria  Rafael Yaghobzadeh, AFP
© Rafael Yaghobzadeh, AFP

Lawmakers in France's National Assembly on Thursday backed a move that could lead to a day to commemorate the October 1961 police crackdown in Paris that killed dozens of Algerians protesting for their country's independence.

A parliamentary motion noting the "bloody and murderous repression of Algerians" was proposed by Greens MP Sabrina Sebaihi and Julie Delpech, from President Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance party.

It encountered opposition from the ranks of Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN). 

"The vote represents the first step in the work to recognise this colonial crime, to recognise this crime of the state," said Sebaihi.

On 17 October,some 30,000 Algerians were urged by the pro-independence FLN party to break a curfew and head to locations around Paris to demonstrate peacefully. 

Under the orders of then police chief Maurice Papon, officers violently broke up the demonstrations.


Official figures reported three dead and around 60 injured. However, in the decades since the incident, historians estimate there were at least several dozen victims, whose bodies were dumped in the River Seine.

"Let us spare a thought for these victims and their families who have been hard hit by the spiral of violence," said Dominique Faure, the minister for local and regional authorities.

Human rights campaigners have long lobbied successive French governments for more transparency in one of the most brutal acts of repression on French soil.

In 2012, President François Hollande paid tribute to the victims who he said were demonstrating for the right to independence.

Macron declared on the 60th anniversary of the crackdown: "The crimes committed on 17 October 1961 under the authority of Maurice Papon are inexcusable.

During the parliamentary debate on Thursday, Faure expressed reservations about a day of commemoration. She said there were already three dates to commemorate what happened during the Algerian war of Independence.

"Much remains to be done to write this history," Faure added.

"But in my opinion this is the only way to build a sincere and lasting reconciliation. I think it is important to let history do the work before considering a new day of commemoration specifically for the victims of 17 October."