11 junho 2017

Have You Heard of the Paris Massacre of 1961?

In the waning days of the Algerian Revolution, the French National Police attacked Algerians in response to increased bombings in France by the Algerian pro-National Liberation Front (FLN). These attacks were carried out against anyone that looked like they might be from the Magreb – Algerians, but also Tunisians and Libyans and sometimes Italians and Spaniards. Algerians were arrested at work or in the streets. They were beaten, and were thrown into the Seine with their hands tied in order to drown them.

Soon, the head of the French National Police was all but encouraging killings. “For one hit taken we shall give back ten!…You also must be subversive in the war that sets you against others. You will be covered, I give you my word on that.” It was widely understood to be allowing police to murder Algerian immigrants, and the killings increased.

A peaceful demonstration against the repressive measures was organized for October 5th, 1961. The police opened fire on the crowd and charged, leading to several deaths. The raids, violence and drownings would be continued over the following days. Unidentified bodies continued to be discovered along the Seine for several weeks. How many were shot at the demonstration, and how many were killed in the ongoing repression, is still disputed through today. Possibly because many of the records were destroyed. And there was no media coverage at the time. In addition, besides a trial for the head of the French National Police thirty years later, no one was ever formally charged for attacking or murdering Algerians. It was a massacre, carried out in the heart of a modern democracy, and no one knows about it.

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