In May of 1968, a series of violent riots engulfed the streets of Paris. The turmoil of the period eventually caused the collapse of Gen. De Gaulle's government. De Gaulle had led France through WWII. Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was in power from January 1959 until the student riots led to his downfall in April 28th, 1969. De Gaulle earned his way to the top of the French government through a successful military career. His government was highly criticized for the handling of the North African french colonies. De Gaulle's government was unable to control the rioting and bloodshed in Algeria. Back on the mainland, his government was unpopular for its heavy-hand mandate. While the written press and elections were free, the state had a monopoly on television and radio broadcasts. The students were disillusioned by the lack of employment and poor workers unions. They wanted to change France morally, modernize it. Some, wanted anarchy. The students not only wanted to change France but the world. Women marched in pursuit of rights.French society was traditionalist. The students embraced leftist ideals and sought economic equality. The violent riots caused De Gaulle to flee Paris. He sought refuge in Germany were it is believed he met with military chief Massu who controlled part of occupied Germany. He wanted military intervention to shut down all protest. However, eventually he was forced to accept many reforms which in part led to his stepping down.
On May 6th the union of university teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of the Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to create barricades out of whatever was at hand, while others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds more students were arrested. The following day the workers of Paris joined the protest, meeting with rioters at the arc de triumph. The rioting continued through the month of May. Over a million people marched in violent protests. The riots eventually led to De Gaulles retirement the next year.