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3rdMay1968

Page history last edited by Becca Hix 3 years, 7 months ago

Events of the 3rd May

 

Friday 3rd May is widely regarded as the beginning of the May '68 movement in France. After the events of the 22nd March, tensions were high between students and the university faculties, and the authorities. The students of the Sorbonne organised a rally to protest fascism within the university and to support their fellow students in Nanterre. The Rector of the university, Jean Roche, phoned the police to clear the courtyard, fearing a crisis as was happening in Nanterre. 

The riot was completely spontaneous, caused by clashes between students and authorities on the Boulevard de Saint Michel. Armed police arrived on campus to clear the courtyard as requested by Roche, and began to violently arrest students who resisted. In retaliation, some students shook police cars in an attempt to free their friends. When a paving stone was thrown at a police car, injuring the driver, the police officers began a tactic of blind violence, using batons and tear gas against the students. Over one hundred people were injured.

 

  

Daniel Cohn-Bendit leading a protest at the Sorbonne (source: https://www.francetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/30-269.original.jpg Last accessed: 07/03/18)

 

Reaction

This sudden escalation in violence attracted the attention of students who were previously indifferent towards the movement, bringing them together to protest the violence used against their companions. Many students were content with the university system as it was, and saw no need to protest or change the status quo. As Saint-Lu says in his interview, many saw the protests and the events of 22nd March as the doings of a handful of anarchist students and did not feel the need to get involved, even though they could see that students all across Europe were protesting the Vietnam War, capitalism and authoritarianism.

The general public was also disinterested in the movement until this day, dismissing it as a youthful rebellion; "they rebel because they are young, they rebel because the university is overcrowded" (Aron, 1969, found in Ross, 2002, p.22). Even amongst leftist parties, whose views were being represented by the protesters, the students were seen as bourgeoisie, middle class children who were bored. The police violence attracted the attention of the general masses as they saw on television the brute force being afflicted on people who had been peacefully protesting. There was a strong show of support for the students, even going so far as forcing the 21st Cannes Film Festival to close early as directors withdrew their films, with influential new wave director Jean-Luc Godard even claiming that there was "no point showing films here... it's a question of showing solidarity". 

It was certainly the events of the 3rd of May that inspired the working classes, principally factory workers, to join in the protests, going against the advice of trade unions and leftist parties alike.

 

The Police

 The police entry onto the campus was a scandal in its own rights, given that police did not have the right to enter onto a university campus unless granted access by a senior figure. In this instance, the police were in fact granted access, but many were shocked to see the riot police as opposed to regular patrol officers. 

The CRS were called as opposed to regular "gendarmes" as they were the standard response team for any mass event or gathering. This type of response could be described as very typical of the Gaullist regime that the students were protesting in the first place. 

 

When the police used extreme force against protesters, the general public was shocked. Many of the older generation did not see the students as adults; they were their children, their grandchildren, and many thought that the police had no right to use such brutality against people who were not yet old enough to even vote.

 

Raw colour footage of CRS interaction with students. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENtfZMZeMu4 Last accessed: 07/03/18) 

 

News footage of the occupation and evacuation of the Sorbonne. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yXvQE9WJEY Last accessed: 07/08/18)


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