Clashes between protestors and police in the centre of Zurich 50 years ago are seen as a watershed moment in recent Swiss history. The so-called “Globus Riots” marked the beginning of an anti-establishment youth movement in Switzerland in the wake of similar protests across Europe, notably in neighbouring France.
The violent confrontation on June 29, 1968, was preceded by clashes with security forces following rock concerts by Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, two icons of the young generation, earlier in the year.
The demonstration and the ensuing pitched battles brought public transport in the usually peaceful Swiss city to a standstill. More than 40 people, including police and firefighters, were injured. Police detained nearly 170 protestors. More than 30 people, including one policeman, ended up in court.
The demonstration focused on demands for a self-governed youth centre in a warehouse of the upmarket department store Globus near Zurich’s main railway station.
Critics argued that the police used disproportionate measures to disperse the crowd, but the local authorities suspected the protests were masterminded by Communist forces and therefore had to be stopped using whatever means.
The riots led to a debate in society and politics. Several leftwing parties as well as alternative forms of trading and housing such as cooperatives were spawned by the 1968 movement in Switzerland, according to historians.