The Pont Saint Michel (Saint Michael’s Bridge).
This bridge crosses from the Ile de la Cite to the Left Bank. Near the north end of the bridge is the huge police headquarters (the Prefecture de Police) while across the Seine in the Latin Quarter is the Saint Michel metro stop and the towering fountain of Saint Michael defeating the Devil. Showing the archangel victorious over a sneering Lucifer, the fountain’s statue of Saint Michael serves the city as an allegory of good over evil and the plaza in front of it is often the site for protests such as in May 1968 and the monthly rallies in the 2000’s by Americans Against the War. Just over 200 feet long, the bridge was built in 1857.
In 1961 however, France and especially Paris was under attack by freedom-loving terrorists demanding the French leave still-colonized Algeria. Bombings and attacks in the city had been escalating for months. For example, from the end of August to the start of October 1961, eleven police officers in Paris were killed by terrorist bombs and seventeen were wounded.
In response, the police imposed a curfew on Algerians in the city. On the 17th of October an estimated 40,000 Algerians in Paris took part in an illegal march which quickly turned bloody as the police and protesters went at it. According to witnesses, the police took truckloads of men to the courtyard of the Prefecture de Police headquarters and beat many of the protesters to death then and there. As a display of force and power, as many as thirty bodies were thrown by the police into the Seine off Saint Michael’s Bridge. Some of the bodies washed up as far away as Rouen.
At the time, the city police were under the command of Maurice Papon who, along with other city police officials, would later be tried for crimes against humanity. They were found guilty for their key roles in 1942-44 in rounding-up and deporting Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Much as in the Algerian attack of 1961, the city police and the Prefecture headquarters across the plaza from Notre Dame were instrumental in fulfilling an evil policy.
Saint Michael, across the bridge from the Prefecture is the patron saint of police officers.