Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Cobbled Together From the Ruins of the Future

The whole of May 6th was marked by demonstrations which turned into riots in the afternoon. The first barricades were thrown up at the Place Maubert and defended for three hours. At the same time fights with the police were breaking out at the bottom of the Boulevard Saint-Michel, at the Place du Châtelet, and in Les Halles. By the early evening the demonstrators numbered more than ten thousand and were mainly holding the area around the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where they had been reinforced only after 6p.m. by the bulk of the march organized by the UNEF at Denfert-Rochereau. On May 8th Le Monde wrote:
What followed surpassed in scope and violence everything that had happened throughout an already astonishing day. It was a kind of street fighting that sometimes reached a frenzy, where every blow delivered was immediately returned, and where ground that had scarcely been conquered was just as quickly retaken. . . There were dramatic and senseless moments which, for the observer, seemed rife with madness.
And on May 7th L'Aurore noted: "Alongside the demonstrators could be seen bands of young hoods (blousons noirs) armed with steel bars, who had come in from the outlying areas of Paris to help out the students." The fighting lasted until after midnight, especially at Montparnasse.

For the first time cars were overturned and set afire, paving stones were dug up for the barricades, and stores were looted. The use of subversive slogans, which had begun at Nanterre, had now spread to several parts of Paris. Insofar as the rioters were able to strengthen the barricades, and thus their own capacity for counterattack, the police were forced to abandon direct charges for a position strategy which relied mainly on offensive grenades and tear gas.

May 6th also marked the first intervention of workers, blousons noirs, the unemployed and high school students who that morning had organized important demonstrations. The spontaneity and violence of the riots stood in vivid contrast to the platitudes put forth by their academic initiators as goals and slogans. The very fact that the blousons noirs had fought in the streets shouting "The Sorbonne to the students!" marked an end to an entire era.
Tags: collage, history, nostalgia, politics, theory

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