Police reinforcements sent to Guadeloupe after anti-vaccine riots

Police reinforcements sent to Guadeloupe after anti-vaccine riots
Photo: Carla Bernhardt/AFP
Elite police and counter-terrorism officers arrived on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Sunday, local officials said, to help quell a week of unrest sparked by measures to curb Covid-19.

Protests in the French overseas territory of roughly 400,000 people broke out after an announcement that Covid jabs would be mandatory for all healthcare workers, with the demonstrations marred by clashes and looting.

Overnight on Sunday, police arrested 38 people after curfew violators looted and torched shops and pharmacies, and two security forces were injured.

The police reinforcements began  dismantling protesters’ road barricades shortly after their arrival, according to Colonel Jean Pierre from the gendarmerie in Pointe-à-Pitre, the island’s main city.

The barricades had impeded traffic, forcing the closure of schools on Guadeloupe’s main island on Monday, the education ministry said.

The Guadeloupe Préfecture said protesters have fired on security forces and firefighters, adding that “organised gangs” were now also involved in the unrest.

Thirty people will appear in court on Monday in Pointe-à-Pitre for allegedly participating in the unrest, according to prosecutor Patrick Desjardins.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal called the situation “intolerable and unacceptable” and vowed a tough response against a “small minority”.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew is currently set to last until Tuesday.

Over the weekend, Guadeloupe’s main trades union the UGTG called for continued protests.

While the demonstrations were sparked by the vaccine mandate, they also express “the depth of suffering, inequality, poverty and exclusion felt by the  people, notably youths and the elderly,” said UGTG secretary general Maite Hubert M’Toumo.

Since summer, Guadeloupe’s vaccination drive has picked up, with 90 percent of healthcare workers vaccinated, as well as nearly half the general population. In mainland France, the vaccinate rate is close to 75 percent of the population.

In neighbouring Martinique meanwhile, a general strike has been called for Monday.

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