carnet de route
The Massacre of October 17, 1961  
Seeing and touching  
Dinner at Mourad's  
Families continue to fight  
The Massacre of October 17, 1961  
Dark episode. Sad anniversary. A dishonor for the country of the Human Rights. The day after the drama, an American journalist wrote: « it is a modern version of the St. Bartholomew ».
At the end of the afternoon, I joined many hundreds of demonstrators gathered like they did each year, on the bank of the Seine, on the St. Michel bridge in Paris. On this site, dead and wounded were thrown into the Seine. In the days that followed, about 150 bodies were fished out. What had happened?
In the context of the Algerian war, the government decided to put a curfew starting at 8:30 p.m. on all the territory of the Parisian area for all the « French Muslims of Algeria ».
Against this imposed curfew, tens of thousands of Algerians (women and children) decided to hold a peaceful demonstration on October 17, 1961to defend their rights for equality, and their rights for the independence of their country.
The police forces had decided « to beat up Arabs ». The chief of police was on site. The repression was of an extreme brutality. Thousands of demonstrators were arrested, imprisoned and tortured.
mémoire We were there on this anniversary date to demand « truth and justice » which means the official recognition of the crime committed by the French State and free access to the archives. This episode is not well known by the French and the Algerians.
I took pleasure in meeting many Algerians and demonstrators. We were not in any hurry to leave. After the speeches, a large bouquet of flowers was thrown in the Seine, to show our solidarity so that we do not forget.  
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Seeing and touching  
Some Swiss speaking German came to visit Paris for a few days. They wished to meet me and learn about my activities. I arranged to meet them at the Labour Centre: the house of Unions has been occupied since the last five months by hundreds of jobless Africans with no official papers.
At the end of the afternoon, my visitors from Switzerland arrived and entered the yard of the Labour Centre: what a shock! Suddenly, they were close to Africans that surrounded them. It was not a television program, but a face-to-face meeting with foreigners, seen in the flesh.
The Africans were everywhere, like at a market. They discussed, came and went as they pleased. The women clothed with colourful dresses were in their corner, sitting on chairs. The women had prepared a meal in large cooking pots that the men were now washing under the faucet since the meal was finished. The children were playing.
voir et toucher
My friends spent an hour with them, visiting what served as a dormitory where mattresses were piled up, and asking many questions just like children do.
During the evening, they were still very impressed by what they had seen and heard.
proximité They stayed preoccupied by these foreigners that had become so close to them. : « But how do they manage to wash themselves and their clothes? » « What happens when they are sick? » « Do they have conflicts between them? »...
Since their arrival in Paris, they had visited prestigious sanctuaries and places of prayer, but above all what they remember most, is this proximity with the Africans that had welcomed them and who, like them, were humans.
I thought of the words from John the Apostle: « What we have seen with our eyes, what our hands have touched of the Word of life, we are announcing it to you '.
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Dinner at Mourad's  
Mourad is a young Algerian that I met when he had no official papers and no apartment. He is now married to an Algerian woman and four daughters have joined the family. Today, he has obtained the French nationality and he is chairman of an association for people with no lodging.  
amis When his father came from Algeria to visit him, he never missed meeting me and entrust his son to my care. We had established a good friendship before he died.
It is the turn of Mourad's mother to come to France to see the family. It is an occasion for me to be invited for dinner.
On the 5th floor of a large building at the edge of the Parisian ring road, the apartment seemed rather small for the family who crowds in as much as possible. Mourad's wife welcomed me with a wonderful smile, while the children all stared persistently at me with their large eyes.
Mourad's mother said to me: « In Algeria, I have a big house just for me alone. Here it is very small and we are so many! ». She will not stay very long in France. Her life is to be in her country.
Mourad asked her with respect if he can open a bottle of wine for his guests: « you are here in your home my son. »
A common friend of the association was also invited. The dining room, the only large room in the apartment, was reserved for us. The children could not come into this room. While the women were busy in the kitchen, the three men were being served around a table where there was everything. « It is this way, Mourad told me, it is in our culture. »
At the time of my departure, I went to say goodbye to the women and thank them. The mother kissed me and said in Arabic « May God bless you and be with you ».
On the doorstep, Mourad said to me: « you're lucky: you're leaving with my mother's blessing. »
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Families continue to fight  
sans logis One year after the installation of a camp of badly housed people on the rue de la Banque close to the Paris Stock exchange, families went back to the same place. The Minister of Housing Council, a woman, had promised to find lodging for all the families, 374 in number, during the year. A promise not held. To date only one third of the families have been re-housed.
Surrounded by the police forces, we were demonstrating to show the Minister that we were always there, as determined to continue until all the families have been re-housed.
The rue de la Banque was occupied. No more traffic. Time for the speeches with the megaphone had come.
The actress Josiane Balasko reminded us that last year, political leaders had blamed her « for becoming agitated in the media » on this question of housing, but she said « They haven't finished seeing me agitated ».
I was the next to speak and I said: « today, we are capable of rescuing banks, but we are incapable of helping families. »
The humorist Guy Bedos, liked to recall the words of the singer Jacques Brel: « I hurt for others ». We hurt for all the families crowded in hotel rooms, or just thrown out before the winter season. The police was listening, apparently unperturbed.
After the demonstration in the street, there was a celebration on the premises of the association where a buffet was served, prepared by the families. We were happy to be together and to know that together every thing becomes possible.
familles en lutte