From the mid-1960s onward, student protest movements grew up in the U.S.A. and Western Europe, including at Freie Universität. In June 1966 the first "sit-in" in a German university took place here when more than 3,000 students from Freie Universität protested in the Henry Ford Building against the planned compulsory deregistration of long-term students in the law and medicine departments of Freie Universität. After ten hours of discussion, the assembly passed a resolution demanding the dismantling of oligarchic rule and the implementation of democratic freedom in all areas of society. Forms of protest adopted from the American Civil Rights Movement, such as "sit-ins" and "teach-ins," soon became part of daily life at West German universities.
On June 2, 1967, Benno Ohnesorg, a student at Freie Universität, was shot and killed by a Berlin policeman during a demonstration against the visit of the Shah of Persia, Reza Pahlavi. In the following months, Freie Universität became a center of the "anti-authoritarian student movement." At first this movement's criticisms of the "Establishment" were rather vague, but they hardened in 1968 with the formation of the "Extra-parliamentary Opposition" (APO) into a fundamental rejection of the existing social system.