Hollande’s Reaction to Paris 1961 Massacre

Newspaper Headline Following the October 17, 1961 Protest.
Photo: Flickr.com/mr.paille

This Wednesday, October 17th, the French President, Francois Hollande declared that the French Republic “clearly acknowledges the blood-ridden” repression of the Algerian protest in Paris on October 17th 1961.

Mr. Hollande asserts that, “ On October 17th 1961, Algerians who were protesting for their right of independence, were killed in a brutal repression… Fifty-one years after this tragedy, I pay tribute to the memory of the victims.”

On the night of October 17th 1961, a mass protest was secretly organized by the Front de Liberation National (FLN), a militarized organization created during the Algerian War to mobilize the Algerian community in France to pursue the fight for independence and prepare their return to Algeria. The Algerian community in the Paris region added up to 150,000 people by 1961. The protest, a boycott of the curfew instated for the North African population in Paris at the time, took the shape of an enormous march through the big boulevards and avenues of the French capital. The intervention of the national police is the cause of the extreme violence: a huge number of wounded and a significant number of deaths that has yet to be determined. The violence inflicted by the police on the Algerian population continued beyond that night.

Until June 1999, the French Republic had yet to declare the events during the period of 1954 to 1962 with Algeria as a “war,” let alone the massacres of the bloodcurdling night of October 17th 1961.  In June 1999, Jacques Chirac’s government, with Lionel Jospin as Prime Minister, described this 8-year long battle as the “Algerian War.”

In spite of this announcement, reluctance to publish facts and testimonies regarding the war followed. Also there was a long lasting difficulty to establish how this war would be taught in high school as part of the French History, this problem was finally resolved in 2002.

Francois Hollande has managed to be consistent with his willingness to pay tribute to these events. Exactly one year ago, October 17th 2011, once he was appointed head of the Parti Socialiste (PS), he paid a visit to an suburb of Paris, Clichy-la-Garenne – with a large Algerian community – to show solidarity to the families who were in mourning of victims of the Algerian war and notably the night of October 17th 1961. Mr. Hollande affirmed “this event had been concealed from historical facts for much too long and it is important to commit such an event to memory.”

The French President will be conducting an official trip to Algeria in December of this year.

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