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May 1968 events in France
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Read When Poetry Ruled The Streets: The French May Events Of
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The Berkeley Girl, in Paris, 1968
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The rector of the Sorbonne closed the university, which further incited the students. The student leaders then proposed a major march and rally for May 10 to demand the reopening of the Sorbonne, the release of students who were still being held by the police, and an end to the intimidating police presence in the Latin Quarter.
The Night of the Barricades—May 10—11, —remains a fabled date in postwar French history. By then the number of student protesters in the city had reached nearly 40, At about in the morning of May 11, the police attacked, firing tear gas and beating students and bystanders with truncheons. The bloody confrontation continued until dawn. By the time the dust had cleared, nearly students had been arrested and hundreds of others had been hospitalized, including more than police officers.
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The Latin Quarter lay in ruins, and public sympathy for the students, already considerable, increased. It was at this point that what had begun as a university-based protest movement for educational reform came to engulf the whole of France. The next several days witnessed the largest wildcat general strike in French history, as millions of workers poured into the streets in support of the students as well as to set forth their own demands. During the course of the strike, scores of factories—including those of the French automaker Renault —were seized by workers.
The French state was badly shaken, yet it managed to weather the crisis.
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After his timorous flight to Baden-Baden, de Gaulle returned to Paris to deliver a dramatic May 30 radio address in which he raised the spectre of a communist takeover. In reality, however, the French Communist Party had long ago abandoned the dream of a revolutionary seizure of power, accepting instead a limited role in the French political order. Indeed, the communists initially opposed—and even derided—the student protesters. The workers angrily rejected the agreements, however, and the strikes continued. In one of his trademark political masterstrokes, de Gaulle also used his address to announce that he would dissolve the National Assembly and call new elections for June 23, assuming correctly that the French people were ready for a return to stability.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country marched in counterdemonstrations in support of de Gaulle. Events of May Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents.