Sorbonne, 1968

Photo credit: George Garrigues

What began as a student sit-in at the Sorbonne campus of the University of Paris in the spring of 1968—with protestors railing against capitalism and American imperialism—soon turned into a countrywide demonstration involving eleven million French workers. The May 1968 riots lasted for two weeks and saw the occupation of universities and factories across the nation. For a few hours, France’s president Charles de Gaulle even secretly fled the country. The protests also inspired artists and songwriters who created posters, graffiti and slogans like “Il est interdit d’interdire” (It is forbidden to forbid.) and “Sous les pavés, la plage! (Under the paving stones, the beach.) The photograph depicts graffiti on a classroom wall at the University of Lyon. More recently, the “yellow vest” protests in Paris play on the same themes of unrest and dissatisfaction with the status quo.

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