Macron: police violence at 1961 Algerian protest ‘unforgivable’

French president attends memorial for those killed and lays flowers at bridge over the Seine

By Kim Willsher in Paris

Emmanuel Macron has described a bloody police operation against Algerian pro-independence demonstrators 60 years ago that led to many deaths as an “unforgivable” crime.

Attending a memorial for those killed, Macron laid flowers at a bridge over the River Seine which marked a starting point for the protests in October 1961 that led to one of the darkest chapters of French postwar history.

He is the first French president to officially recognise that the “crimes committed that night … are unforgivable for the republic”, though he made no official speech. A statement issued by the Élysée admitted “the repression was brutal, violent and bloody”, but stopped short of an apology.

The events of the night of 17 October 1961 have never been legally investigated and are still shrouded in official obfuscation. Even today, the death toll from the police attack is unknown and disputed.

According to officials at the time, less than a handful of protesters died at the hands of Paris police, then led by the former Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon. Historians say the number killed, many of them beaten and thrown into the River Seine, was between 50 and 120, while Algeria has said the death toll in the “massacre” could have been as high as 300.

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