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Macron's Remark on the 1961 Protest Fatalities falls short.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has described a 60-year-old police crackdown on Algerian protestors in Paris as an "unforgivable" crime.

Algerian demonstrators were attacked by French police on October 17, 1961. Some were killed by gunshots, while others drowned. 

Macron is the first French president to express his condolences to those who perished on that sad day. He took part in remembrance on the Seine River Bridge, which was the starting point for a march against a night curfew imposed only on Algerians.

However, historians and social activists in France have expressed dissatisfaction with President Macron's failure to fully acknowledge the state's role in the police killings of dozens of Algerians at a nonviolent protest 60 years ago.

Those who had hoped for an explicit apology for the police violence were disappointed. Researchers have urged authorities to open up historical records to experts, allowing them to investigate mass atrocities that are still cloaked in official secret today.

The head of the association on 17 October 1961, Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, in his statement said that the French president's speech was a small step that allowed Emmanuel Macron to avoid making a larger one. Oliver said that it falls far short of what was expected.

Another belief is that the president is playing with words for the sake of his electorate because it was a state crime, not a crime committed by the prefect.

An Account of the Incident 

On October 17, 1961, more than 25,000 Algerians peacefully demonstrated in reaction to a harsh curfew imposed on Algerians in Paris and its environs at 8:30 p.m.

Prior to the demonstration, ten thousand police officers and gendarmes were deployed. Several demonstrators were shot dead during the repression, some of whose bodies were thrown into the Seine River. According to estimates, between several dozen and 200 people died, but the official death toll was only three.

The tragedy occurred under the supervision of Maurice Papon, the notorious Paris police chief who led the atrocities.

Macron addressed relatives of the victims on the 60th anniversary of the tragedy. President admitted that a number of protestors had been killed, with "their bodies tossed into the Seine," and he paid honor to their memories.

Despite not making an official statement at the ceremony, The French President recognize that the "crimes committed that night... are unforgivable for our republic.”

According to a statement from the Elysée Palace, "recognized the facts: that the crimes committed that night under Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic". And acknowledges "the repression was brutal, violent and bloody", but stopped short of offering an apology.

But historian’s thinks that it's a bad idea to believe that Maurice Papon was in a position to act alone and was solely responsible for the massacre of Algerian protesters in October 1961. That responsibility lies with the prime minister or the government is mistaken.

Considering the gravity of the crime, critics expected much more from President Emanuel Macron. But there was no acknowledgement, no law, and no compensation. There was no declaration at all. Macron did not make any statement during the event. 

Because for many it was not a prefectural crime. Several state officials were implicated in the crime. Many of them knew about the events but did not act and covered it up with silence. Therefore, there was a decades-long silence that followed.

Archive Access is Restricted

Several human rights groups are calling on authorities to take further steps to acknowledge the French state's responsibility for the tragedies and horrors associated with Algeria's independence war, as well as to open up more archives from that period.

Macron indicated earlier this year that he will accelerate up the declassification of secret documents pertaining to Algeria's fight for independence from France from 1954 to 1962. Macron's office stated that the new method was implemented in August. 

In reality, accessing the police archives was still difficult since it required contacting the police prefecture, which serves as both a judge and a party to the events. In addition, in comparison to other democratic countries, access to archives in France is severely restricted.

How the Opposition Reacted

While the far-right attacked the president for being influenced by anti-French propaganda. The right-wing political opponents of Macron also criticized his declaration for going too far. Macron is blamed for continuing to belittle their country.

All around far-right groups echo this sentiment and argue that the head of state should inspire pride in being French, not shame. If not, then how can we expect immigrants to assimilate? The candidate for the far-right presidential nomination, Nicolas Dupont Aignan, said this.

However, some historians praised Macron for making a step in the right direction. Because it is the first time a head of state has used the term “crime” and linked it to the state.

Written By: Olivium's Staff.


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