France History Archive
Paris May 1968

Dates and Principal Events

Source: Metropolis, from Le Monde - Dossiers & Documents, number 264.

8. January – the Minister for Youth and Sports is forced by students to leave the inauguration of a swimming pool at Nanterre.

26. January – There are violent exchanges during a demonstration by strikers at Caen.

7. February – An anti-Vietnam committee organizes a counter-demonstration against supporters of US Vietnam policy, resulting in violent exchanges with the police. A pro-North Vietnam demonstration takes place on 13. February.

14. February – Incidents at universities throughout France by students demanding freedom of speech and movement.

22. February – The Minister of Education announces a limited liberalization of access to universities.

19. March – A convention at Amiens attempts to sketch a design for educational reforms.

22. March – At Nanterre University, the administrative tower is occupied by 150 students, who say they are anarchists. Courses are suspended until 1. April.

12. April – The attack on student leader Rudi Dutschke in Germany results in riots there and supporting demonstrations in France.

27. April – Daniel Cohn-Bendit, 23, student leader at the University of Nanterre, is arrested.

2. May – Prime Minister Georges Pompidou leaves for official visits to Iran and Afghanistan. Courses at the faculty of letters are suspended at Nanterre after incidents there.

3. May – Police clear the courtyard at the Sorbonne. Violence in the Quartier Latin results in more than 100 injured and 596 arrested.

4. May – Courses at the Sorbonne are suspended. The UNEF and the Snesup call for unlimited strikes.

5. May – Courts convict 13 demonstrators; give four jail terms.

6. May – Battles in the Quartier Latin: 422 arrests; 345 police and about 600 students are hurt. Students at universities throughout France pledge support.

7. May – At the tomb of the unknown soldier at Etoile: 30,000 students sing the ‘Marseillaise.’

9. May – The Minister of Education forbids the re-opening of the faculties.

10. May – Night of riot in the Quartier Latin: police assault 60 barricades. 367 are hospitalized of which 251 are police; 720 others hurt and 468 arrested. Cars burned were 60 and 188 others were damaged. The Minister of Education says of the protestors, "Ni doctrine, ni foi, ni loi."

11. May – The major unions, the CGT, the CFDT and the FEN, call for a general strike on 13. May. Back in Paris, George Pompidou, announces the re-opening of the Sorbonne, also for the 13. May.

13. May – The general strike puts hundreds of thousands of students and workers in the streets of Paris; the Sorbonne is occupied by students.

14. May – The National Assembly discusses the university crises and the battles of the Quartier Latin. President Charles de Gaulle leaves for Romania. Workers occupy Sud-Aviation in Nantes.

15. May – The theatre de l’Odéon is occupied by 2,500 students and the Renault factory at Cléon is occupied by workers.

16. May – Strikes hit other factories throughout France, plus air transport, the RATP and the SNCF. Newspapers fail to be distributed.

18. May – President de Gaulle arrives back from Romania, 12 hours earlier than expected. Cinema professionals occupy the Cannes Film Festival. Major French directors withdraw their films from competition and the jury resigns, closing the festival.

19. May – At the Elysée palace, President de Gaulle says, "La réforme, oui; la chienlit, non"

20. May – An estimated 10 million workers are on strike; France is practically paralysed.

22. May – A censure motion by opposition leftists falls 11 votes short of a majority in the National Assembly. Union confederations say they are willing the negotiate with the employer’s association and the government. An amnesty for demonstrators is passed by the Assembly. A demonstration is held in Paris to protest the withdrawal of Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s residence permit for France.

24. May – President de Gaulle announces a referendum on radio and television. Overnight rioting in Paris sees 795 arrests, and 456 injured. An attempt to torch the Bourse is made. Other incidents throughout France; a Commissaire de Police is killed in Lyon by a truck. Committees for the Defense of the Republic – CDR – are launched.

25. May – France’s state radio and television – the ORTF – goes on strike: no TV-news at 20:00. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou negotiates with everybody.

27. May – Agreement is reached between the unions, employer’s associations and the government. Minimum wage is to be raised, working hours cut, reduction in the age of retirement, and the right to organize. Workers at Renault and other big firms refuse to return to work. At 17:00, 30,000 students and workers march from Gobelins to the Charléty stadium, where they hold a meeting, which Pierre Mendés-France attends.

28. May – Georges Pompidou accepts the resignation of the Minister of Education.

29. May – President de Gaulle cancels weekly ministerial meeting and arrives at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises at 18:00, after making secret visit to General Massu, who leads French troops stationed in Baden-Wurttemberg. A demonstration called for by the CGT brings out several hundreds of thousands in Paris.

30. May – By radio, President de Gaulle announces the dissolution of the National Assembly and says the elections will take place within the normal timetable. Georges Pompidou remain Prime Minister. An allusion is made that force will be used to maintain order, if necessary. Tens of thousands of government supporters march from Concorde to the Etoile.

31. May – The cabinet is reshuffled and elections are announced for the 23. and 30. June. Exchange controls are re-established and demonstrations of support for the government are held throughout France.

1. June – The Pentecost long weekend is welcomed with the return of fuel to gas stations and truly huge taffic jams throughout Paris and France. The minimum wage is raised to three francs an hour.

On Tuesday, after the weekend, most of the strikes were gradually abandoned and workers returned to their jobs. Clemency was accorded to OAS members and Georges Bidault returned to France while Raoul Salan was released from prison. On TV, President de Gaulle said that he had considered retiring on 29. May.

10. June Election campaign starts, and there were still some violent incidents, especially on 11. June when 400 were hurt, 1500 arrested and a demonstrator was shot and killed at Montbéliard. The next day, demonstrations were forbidden in France. The day after, students were evicted from the Odéon and two days later, from the Sorbonne.

In the first round of the elections, the federation of leftist parties and the communists lost ground. In the second round a week later, the parties of the right won an overwhelming majority. Leftist groups lost 61 seats and the communists lost 39. Pierre Mendés-France was not re-elected in Grenoble.

10. July Georges Pompidou resigned and Maurice Couve de Murville became Prime Minister; saying that it would take until the end of the year to begin the ‘grands réformes.’

At state-run radio and TV – the ORTF – 102 journalists were fired for activities during the ‘events.’ A basket of austerity measures were adopted by the National Assembly on 28. November. Police controlling student ID cards at Nanterre and the Sorbonne were not appreciated in mid-December, and the police were withdrawn on the 19th.

April of 1969 An extraordinary referendum is held. President de Gaulle asked voters to decide whether he was to continue as President of France. On 27. April, 10,901,753 voted ‘oui,’ and 12,007,102 voted ‘non.’

16. June 1969. Georges Pompidou elected president.