Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to admit that the French police had committed crimes against Algerians 60 years ago, when they brutally dispersed Algerian demonstrators in Paris, killing dozens.
On Saturday, Macron condemned the Paris police’s deadly crackdown on a 1961 Algerian protest, events that had been off-limits in France for decades.
Macron joined the commemoration of the crime near the bridge over the Seine, which was the starting point for a march in 1961 against a nighttime curfew imposed only on Algerians in Paris.
Macron, the first French president to attend a memorial service for the dead, observed a minute’s silence at the Beasons Bridge on the Seine in the Paris suburbs where the protests began.
The exact number of victims has never been clear and some activists fear that hundreds of victims may have been killed.
President Macron condemned the police action that night as unforgivable, but offered no apologies. He admitted killing dozens of protesters and “throwing their bodies into the Seine.”
Macron told relatives of the victims and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that “crimes” were committed on the night of October 17, 1961, led by the notorious Paris police chief, Maurice Papon.
At that time Algeria was fighting for its independence from France. The police, led by Papon, beat the demonstrators and threw the bodies into the Seine.
In the 1980s, Papon’s role in collaborating with the Nazis occupying France in World War II was revealed, his complicity in the deportation of Jews, and he was convicted of crimes against humanity but later released.
The Elysee Palace said in a statement that Macron “admitted the facts: the crimes committed that night during the reign of Maurice Papon are unforgivable for the Republic.” He added that “this tragedy has been kept secret for a long time, denied or hidden.”
Macron’s statements about crimes went further than his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who admitted in 2012 that Algerian protesters were “killed during a bloody repression.”
Despite this important step, there was no official apology from Macron or the Elysee. Nor did he give a public address, as the Elysee issued only the written statement.