On April 2, 1968 Andreas Baader and his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin were convicted of arson for the blowing up of a department store in Frankfurt, Germany to protest the public’s lack of concern with the Vietnam War.
After their sentencing, Baader and Ensslin were smuggled out of West Germany to France, Switzerland, and back to West Germany where they were arrested. However, with the help of Ulrike Meinhof they escaped prison again and formed the Baader-Meinhof Group, also known as the Red Army Faction (RAF). As a left-wing extremist group, Baader and others fled to Jordan where they trained with the terrorist organization Fatah, learning skills and techniques that they would use later on in Europe.
Back in Europe they engaged in bank robberies, thefts, and violence in the name of what they called the “anti-imperialistic struggle.” They bombed German police stations, U.S. military stations, and press organizations, invoking fear throughout West Germany.
Finally, when Baader and Meihof were caught and arrested in 1972, they were convicted and put in solitary confinement. In May 1976 Meinhof committed suicide.
In an attempt to try to force the release of Baader, the RAF murdered a prominent industrialist, hijacked a plane for the Palestinian Liberation movement, killed the Attorney-General of West Germany, and attempted to kidnap a banker but failed. On October 17, 1977 the remaining RAF prisoners committed suicide.
By the 1990s the Red Army Faction had dissolved and ceased to exist.
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. As the news spread riots erupted in the large urban black centres from Chicago to New York City to Los Angeles. In Indianapolis, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was forced to tell African-Americans that their leader was gunned down by a white man.
A few days later in Oakland, Black Panthers engaged in a shootout with Oakland police. Several people were killed, among those a 16 year-old named Bobby Hutton. On April 11 President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 with the memory of Dr. King on everyone’s mind. Everything was moving so fast that it was impossible to control. Events were spiraling out of basic human comprehension.
Between April 23 and April 30, students at Columbia University in New York City occupied administrative buildings and shut down the university to protest the ongoing violence and deaths in Vietnam. The world was on the brink of utter chaos.
In May students in Paris had had enough. One million of them would march in Paris, in Cannes, Marseille, and Nice. They would trudge along the Eiffel Tower, along the Champs-Elysees, and throughout the country. Students, workers, communists, socialists, and a future president of France, would play an integral role in causing social and economic changes to France with little violence