French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said the March 1962 shooting of dozens of European supporters of French Algeria on the rue d’Isly in the heart of Algiers was “unforgivable for the Republic”. In a first, the French president admitted that the shooting of unarmed civilians by French soldiers was a “massacre”.
At a gathering in the Elysée presidential palace attended by people of French origin who were repatriated after Algeria gained independence, Macron addressed the brutal events of March 26, 1962.
“On that day, French soldiers, poorly commanded and deployed against their will, fired on French people…That day was a massacre,” admitted Macron.
The massacre occurred on rue d’Isly in Algiers just days after the signing of the Evian Accords, which ended the brutal Algerian War and paved the way for Algerian independence on July 5, 1962.
On March 26, 1962, French soldiers fired on unarmed civilians demonstrating for France’s continued presence in Algeria while they were trying to make their way into the European district of Bab El-Oued in the Algerian capital. They were machine-gunned at a roadblock held by the French army.
The shooting, which lasted more than a quarter of an hour, killed at least 50 people, all civilians.
The incident marked the beginning of the mass exodus of “pieds-noirs” – a derogatory term for the French settlers in Algeria – who had to leave North Africa for mainland France.
“Since that day, those who were forced to leave Algeria at the independence and have come back to France have been asking for some recognition that indeed the French army killed civilians that day. This is what the French president did, exactly, by first talking about a massacre, and then saying that it was unforgivable for the Republic to have carried out such a massacre – and never fully addressing it. He is the first French president to do so,” explains FRANCE 24’s French politics specialist Marc Perelman.
On that day, French police brutally repressed a pro-Algerian independence demonstration in Paris. The victims, mostly French Algerians, were beaten, killed or thrown into the River Seine, where they drowned.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)