Three weeks of strikes and violent demonstrations were coming to a climax in France, where President Charles De Gaulle gave
an emergency televised address to the nation on May 24th, 1968.
The former war hero urged the French people to 'back me or sack me' – to either support his programme of social reform or accept his resignation.
But minutes after his address fresh riots erupted in several French cities, one resulting in the first death of the civil unrest when a policeman was run over in Lyons. The situation continued to worsen, with tanks deployed to the outskirts of Paris on May 29th. Only when President De Gaulle called a full election for the following month did the demonstrations begin to die away.
His party won a huge majority as public opinion turned against the strikers, but De Gaulle never fully recovered and resigned the following year.