The 1968 Student Riots: General Charles de Gaulle was a distinguished soldier in the First World War and led the French government in exile during the Second, where he inspired anti-German resistance in occupied France.

In 1968, France experienced one of the worst riots in its history. Thousands of students demonstrated in the streets of Paris and other University cities across France. Quite a number of issues were put forth by these students, among them: reforms of the “bourgeois” university system, America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam, sexual freedom and the “police state.”

One event followed another, in a momentum that grew alarmingly violent: the police occupied the Sorbonne, student leaders were arrested, students set fire to the French Stock Exchange building, the university in Nanterre was shut down, de Gaulle dissolved the National Assembly and convened a military operations headquarters, Prime Minister Pompidou ordered tanks to surround Paris, and workers decided to join the fray and aired their grievances about poor pay. Ten million workers from all across France went on strike.

On the 24th of May 1968, President de Gaulle addressed the nation. After the televised speech, riots broke out again. But eventually, students went back to class and workers returned to work. But the student riots of 1968 marked the beginning of social changes in France.

Charles de Gaulle resigned the following year when his political reforms, aimed at decentralisation, were not endorsed in a referendum. He died in 1970.

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