Riots and revolts during the Algerian War of Independence

The cite of the Paris Massacre, the Saint-Michel Bridge reads: "On noie les Algeriens."
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A barricade in black and white
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A consistent theme during the French-Algerian War was riot and revolt by the people. Famous battles and riots include the Week of the Barricades, the Paris Massacre, and the Oran Massacre. These events shaped the course of the war. Although the Algerian War is known for murder and torture of civilians, the people never stopped resisting. Each revolt brought the Algerian people closer to independence.

The first major riot of the war was the Week of the Barricades. It began in January 1960 with an interview published in a German newspaper, featuring French General Massu criticizing de Gaulle. As a result, Massu was fired immediately and removed from Algiers. The Pied-Noirs, who were people of European ancestry living in Algeria, did not agree with Massu’s dismissal. The Barricades were started by two students, a lawyer, and a cafe owner. The rioters seized government buildings and set up barricades in the city. Within the first day, twenty were killed and dozens were wounded. Gradually over the course of a few days, the people dispersed and surrendered to the threat of military interference. Only the organizers of the revolt were punished and arrested (“Algerian War: Background and Events”).

The Paris Massacre of October 1961 occurred almost two years after the Week of the Barricades. This massacre began with the installation of a curfew for all French Muslims living in Paris. The curfew was introduced by police chief Maurice Papon, and it prevented French Muslims from leaving their houses after 8:30 p.m. In response, the National Liberation Front (FLN) organized a general strike against the curfew (Ruedy). On the night of October 17, 30,000 French Muslim protestors gathered near the Seine River to boycott the curfew. Despite this peaceful protest, Paris police began beating and firing on the unarmed demonstrators. The police allegedly threw people into the Seine after beating them, causing many to drown. There is much dispute as to how many were killed in this massacre, but it is estimated that between 40 to 400 French Muslims were killed by the French military that night (Abidor).

The last major revolt of the war occurred after the signing of the Evian Accords, which was an agreement between France and Algeria to end the war, signed on March 18, 1962. This agreement detailed aspects such as rights of Algerian citizens, prisoner releases, a formal ceasefire between the two countries, and the withdrawl of French forces over the course of two years. The Accords also officially named Algeria independent(“Algerian War”).

On July 5, 1962, de Gaulle declared that Algeria was officially independent. However, this date also marked the last major revolt of the war: the Oran Massacre. After independence was announced, hundreds of armed people entered the city of Oran, which was known to have a high population of Europeans, who generally disagreed with Algeria’s independence. The attackers lynched and tortured European men, women, and children for several hours. Eventually the French Gendarmerie stopped the violence, but the death toll is estimated to be anywhere from 95 to 3,500 deaths (“Algerian War”).

The riots and revolts of the Algerian War are interesting because a wide span of social classes participated in them. This is especially seen in the Week of the Barricades, which was started by two students, a lawyer, and a cafe owner. The events of the war were shaped in part by the rioters, which symbolizes that it is possible for anyone to change the course of history.

-Sierra Baldwin

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Works Cited

Abidor, Mitch. “The Massacre of October 17, 1961 by Mitch Abidor.” The Massacre of October 17, 1961 by Mitch Abidor. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <>.

“Algerian War.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War                                   and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 55-63. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.

“Algerian War: Background and Events.” Triposo. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

Ruedy, John. “Algerian War of Independence.” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. Ed. Philip Mattar. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 136-139. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.

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2 Responses to Riots and revolts during the Algerian War of Independence

  1. Pingback: Algeria Under French Control » Mapping Paris

  2. Meanwhile, Muslim villages were destroyed and whole populations forced to move to accommodate European farms and industry. As the pieds-noirs grew in number and status, the native Algerians, who had no nationality under French law, did not officially exist.

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