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The events of 10th - 12th June 1968

Page history last edited by Cassie Turner 2 years, 2 months ago

 

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Around the 6th and 7th June, a thousand CRS surrounded the Renault factory at Flins in the Yvelins (west of Paris). There were several charges of police marching through the wheat fields and violent confrontations within the villages and around the factory began to occur, with students getting themselves involved to support the workers. This led to the students and Maoists organising a march in support of the striking workers.

 

10th June. The collaboration with the workers can be interpreted in different ways. The partnership of the students and Maoists with the workers can be considered as an attempt to create more tension and violence. The students and workers were both rioting and demonstrating for their own reasons and, until this point, they had done so separately. This brings into question whether it was necessary for the students and Maoists to organise this march. The most likely interpretation is that the students and Maoists genuinely wanted to help the workers, so they saw marching for them as an opportunity to aid them with their movement. However, it may also seem like the students were only heightening the situation further by coming out in support of another cause, which suggests they might cause more problems with the police and thereby create more anger and violence. 

 

Gilles Tautin, a 17 year old secondary school student, was one of the Maoists in the group of students who were being chased by the gendarmes. This led to the students having to jump into the river Seine in an attempt to avoid any violent clashes with them. It soon becomes clear that this was not a good idea, as Gilles Tautin was swept away by the current and drowns, sadly making him the first official death attributed to the 1968 riots. 'Sa mort est tres vite attribuee aux forces de police. Gilles Tautin devient un heros et martyr de mai-juin.' (Le Goff, 1998: 96) 

 

The death of Gilles Tautin is controversial as there are two sides to how the story can be interpreted. On one hand, the police state that the students jumped into the river voluntarily and were in no way forced to do so by the gendarmes, thus making the death a tragic accident. On the other hand, the students that were present at the time of the accident state that the gendarmes charged toward them leaving them no choice but to jump into the Seine as way of an escape. This would then leave the police liable for the death of Gilles Tautin. His tragic demise was very significant at this time as it not only gave those close to Gilles Tautin a chance to mourn for their lost friend, but the French people also gathered on the streets to join forces and unite, representing solidarity at a time of despair, by supporting him and celebrating his life. This demonstrates how the events leading to this accident have greatly impacted French society at this time.

 

In addition, the death of Gilles Tautin marks a vital point in the events of 1968. The fact that all the strikes, demonstrations and occupations had now accumulated in death sent a wave of shock through France. This dramatically and immediately altered public opinion about the students and their movement, in that the protests were no longer seen as something that encouraged change and progress, but as something that generated violence and, when taken to the extreme, deaths of those who took part. Just a few days later, demonstrations were banned and those who took part would be prosecuted for doing so. This implies that they were banned because of the intensity of the violence - there were now people dying not just being injured or arrested. 

 

It can be argued that the students would not have had to jump into the river if the gendarmes had not charged towards them. Therefore, this suggests that the students continued to riot as a way of demonstrating their anger towards the gendarmes for causing the death of a fellow member of the movement. On the other hand, the fact that a fellow member of the demonstrations had died may be a contributing factor in the decision to forbid demonstrations. Those who took part now feared the level of violence and so stopped demonstrating to prevent more.

 

11th JuneThousands of people, including teachers and students from the lycee in which Gilles studied, join forces in blaming the police for his sad demise and stage a silent march through the streets of Paris. 'A Paris, la mort de Gilles Tautin declenche une nouvelle flambee de violence, malgre l'interdiction des manifestations.' (Le Goff, 1998: 96). 

 

It is important to see how the violence at the Renault car factory encouraged more violence in other factories. For example, after the violence in Flins, the Peugeot factory in Sochaux was attacked that night by the gendarmes and the CRS, under instruction from the government (Singer, 2008: 208).  This eventually brought an end to the strikes but it resulted in the death of two workers and several injuries. Things clearly had got out of hand when the CRS got involved to enforce a return to work on 10th June. During the night, a CRS officer killed 24-year-old Pierre Beylot with a 9mm bullet. The next day, the second victim of the strike was claimed. As the police charged around the factory, Henri Blanchet became unbalanced by a grenade whilst standing on a high wall. As a result he fell from the wall which caused his skull to fracture and he died (Jackson, Milne and Williams 2011: 186). In retaliation to the police enforcement, several hundred people attacked the Cercle Hotel, which was often used by the factory management for receptions, where they were smashing bottles of high-quality wine. This was significant for them as they wanted to make an impact on those in higher authority. It could also be seen as a way to show their resentment towards the police for the loss of their colleagues and as a result it only made the situation worse. The factory at Sochaux only resumed normal working on 21st June after 31 days of striking. From this it became clear that the police and CRS enforcement was not enough to stop people from demonstrating, and indeed their actions only encouraged people to unite the workforce and prolong the strikes, which is why it lasted so long. This shows the amount difficulty that the police faced to commence the entire country's return to work. 

 

Because the unions, left-wing parties and the media were focused on the elections for 23rd June, these scenes of local unrest attracted little attention and there was no political reaction on a national level. These remained isolated events and the nation never valued them as significant in the overall crisis. The ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise) was able to get a view of the election campaign despite further on-going television personnel strikes, but they ignored these local protests as they weren't seen as important (Jackson, Milne and Williams 2011: 186).

 

12th June.  

 

As a result of the rising death toll from May and June, the government decided that they had gone too far with the second attack on the Peugot factory and so they withdrew their troops. After taking into account the fatalities caused by the police, the decision was made by the Council of Ministers on 12 June to prohibit all demonstrations throughout the country (History.com). This was a crucial turning point because it marked the start of the difficult return to work. Raymond Marcellin, interior minister of France, announces this during de Gaulle's legislative election campaign wherein he states that offenders during the events of May 68 are informed that they will be prosecuted judicially with the leaders risking prison for crowd provocation. A student arrested on the barricades was referred to the Public Prosecutor's office and then jailed at Fresnes prison (Rajsfus, 2010: 38). He was the first student to be incarcerated since the release of four young men, ordered by the Paris Court of Appeal on 13 May. This student from a school of accounting is prosecuted for contempt of the law through violence and rebellion. This was the day when the UNEF staged its last street demonstrations which included a protest against the drowning in Flins and the killing of workers at Sochaux. This shows that the deaths of the workers and Gilles Tautin was significant towards the lives of those who faced 1968, as in their eyes they died trying to support the workforce for the satisfaction of all their claims for the freedom of the factory.

 

 

Students continued to protest until 12th June, when they were banned (History.com, 2010). The prohibition of demonstrating was an important moment in 1968 because it marked the start of the difficult return to work. Firstly, it could have created more anger and violence amongst the students because up until 1974 when the law changed, citizens under the age of 21 were not allowed to vote. Therefore it was believed that the use of demonstrations as a method to promote and vocalise thoughts was the only acceptable way that they were able to have their say.  By preventing this, it may have angered the students because they no longer had the ability to voice their opinions. On the other hand, it may have been a moment of realisation for all those involved in the demonstrations that, due to the increasing amount of violence and fatalities, they had gone too far and the only way of avoiding further problems was to forbid the demonstrations. 

 

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