Protests and politics 50 years on from student uprising

French police cracked down on violent protests in Paris, echoing scenes that played out half a century ago during the country’s 1968 uprising.

More than 1,000 demonstrators – some of whom hurled projectiles at police, torched vehicles, and set a McDonald’s ablaze – took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday in advance of an International Workers’ Day rally.

The events in Paris, which saw police use water canon and tear gas in response, were not the only demonstrations to take place in France, however.

Throughout the country, public-sector workers and students marched against French President Emmanuel Macron‘s plans to reform the country’s economy and higher education system.

More than 20,000 people were estimated to have been involved, according to police.

‘Spring of discontent’

But the so-called “spring of discontent”, which has seen protests including student sit-ins and train strikes take place, has also evoked memories of an anti-government movement that erupted 50 years ago this month.

In May 1968, students and workers rose up against the conservatism of General Charles de Gaulle’s government, culminating in an estimated 10 million workers downing tools during labour strikes that threatened to wreak havoc on the French economy.

Half a century on, the movement – which briefly threatened to collapse the status quo before parliamentary elections a month later resulted in a landslide win for de Gaulle – continues to infuse the spirit of protest in France and elsewhere today, Biba Pavard, author of Mai ’68: The Second French Revolution, told Al Jazeera.

“That’s why I prefer to talk about ’68 as many years in one. It had started before and lasted for a long time,” Pavard said.

“And neither was it an exclusively French movement. If uprisings were happening in places such as Africa, South America, and, of course, the United States it was because ideas were circulating, writings were…

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