Student protesters in Paris, May ’68.
“In 1964, students at the University of California at Berkeley staged a sit-in at Sproul Hall to protest campus restrictions on political activism. Shouting through his bullhorn, Mario Savio, the leader of the Free Speech Movement, likened modern society to an unhearing, unfeeling, oiled machine that needed to be stopped. … Four years later, students the world over had seemingly made good on Savio’s words. In Italy, the occupation of the University of Turin in 1967 ignited a widespread student take-over of campuses in Florence, Pisa, Venice, Milan, Naples, Padua, and Bologna. By March 1968, the spreading disruptions had paralyzed the entire system of higher education in Italy. Tens of thousands of students went on strike; the universities were besieged or occupied; and professors faced locked rooms or empty lecture halls. In 1968 in France, student protests began at Nanterre and soon spread to occupations throughout the French university system. The same year, German students occupied the Free University in Berlin and barricaded the entrances to campuses in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Göttingen and Aachen while high school and university students in Mexico occupied their school buildings under the slogan ‘We don’t want the Olympic Games, we want a revolution!’ In the United States, the 1968 occupation of Columbia University by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was, within two years, replicated across the country as over 4 million students — joined by 350,000 faculty in over 800 universities — went on strike, taking over university buildings and burning down army recruitment offices. Between May 1 and June 30, 1970, nearly a third of all US universities witnessed ‘incidents which resulted in the disruption of the normal functioning of the school.’ Initially centered on campuses, students soon took their tactics outside the university to disrupt ‘business as usual’ within society at large. In the United States, students blocked railroad tracks and city streets, and held sit-ins on America’s highways to engage stalled drivers in debates about the state of the nation — though how well this last tactic worked is open to some debate. …”