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This Week in HistoryThis Week in History: Week 42 (17 October 1961)

Protesting Algerians Shot Dead In Paris

French police kill up to 400 people marching in support of Algeria's independence.

In 1961, French police killed several hundred Algerians in the streets of Paris. The victims were marching in a peaceful demonstration against French colonial rule in their homeland. More than 10,000 others were arrested, some of whom died while being held in jail. In 1962, Algeria finally became an independent country after over 100 years of French colonization.

protest (verb): show disapproval or objection
independence (noun): the state of being free from another person's control
demonstration (noun): an organized act of protest
colonial rule (noun): a system in which one country has power over another country
colonization (noun): the sending of settlers to control and exploit a country and its people

Transcript: One of the most infamous events in France's modern history, on October the 17th 1961 around 30,000 Algerians gathered near this bridge in central Paris for a peaceful but illegal demonstration. They were demanding independence for their north African homeland. Police had assembled in large numbers outside a nearby station and then moved in. In the ugly and violent confrontations that followed they shot and beat up protesters, put some of them into sacks, throwing them into the River Seine to drown. To this day the Police have never revealed figures. Historians estimate around 200 were killed.

The police station is still standing and of course the River Seine is still flowing, but with the passage of time fewer and fewer witnesses of those events in 1961 remain alive.

We found this man who was just thirteen at the time.

"The police hit my brother with a truncheon. My father had been in prison for three years for being a member of the Algerian National Front for Liberation. He said many of his friends were killed that night."

The then head of the police was Maurice Papon, a collaborator with the Nazis in the Second World War who would later be convicted for crimes against humanity.

"Does France have any shame at all about what happened here 49 years ago?"

"Very, very few people. I can say that in the - er - establishment level not at all. But people as individuals, and sure the left, they feel that this is a part of a shameful history."

"Even now, many Algerians feel they remain a repressed minority in France."

"The problems are many. Our government have tried one strategy to divide the people and to increase discrimination, racism and what we call 'state racism.'"

"The inscription on the bridge reads: 'In memory of the numerous Algerians who died during a bloody repression of a peaceful demonstration.' Mark Votier, Press TV, Paris"

Mini Quiz

1. The hundreds of people who were killed by French police in the streets of Paris were
a) peaceful demonstrators
b) violent criminals
c) dangerous terrorists

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2. The victims were killed, beaten or arrested while protesting against French colonial rule in
a) Paris
b) Vietnam
c) Algeria

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3. Colonial rule occurs when a powerful country invades and takes control of a weaker country in order to
a) help the country and its people to develop
b) gain wealth by exploiting the country's resources
c) learn about the country's history and culture

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Contributor: Matt Errey creator of Word Up