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Back in the Day: French student protests spark May '68 strikes

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Back in the Day: French student protests spark May '68 strikes


May 2, 1968: The French government shuts the University of Paris at Nanterre after a student protest against the Vietnam War. Some of the students, who had clashed with university officials for months over education reform, were expelled. It sparked solidarity protests led by German student Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is now a Green MEP. The protesters then occupied the city’s prestigious Sorbonne university, erecting barricades between themselves and police. The student uprising sparked protests in workplaces across France, later escalating into a massive general strike just over ten days later that involved up to two thirds of the French workforce. Some historians have argued that the movement was unique in the 20th century as it transcended the boundaries of class, race and age. Although it threatened briefly to bring down the government of Charles de Gaulle, the protests petered out and the Sorbonne was re-opened in mid-June. The movement’s did however have a social impact that is still evident in French society today.

Also on May 2: The European Central Bank is founded (1998); King Léopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo Free State (1885); A British submarine sinks the ARA General Belgrano in the Falklands War (1982)

Born on May 2: Donatella Versace (1955), David Beckham (1975), Lily Allen (1985).

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