Several police wounded as French Caribbean shakes Covid-19 vaccine protests

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Ten police officers were injured and several journalists shot at on the French Caribbean island of Martinique overnight Thursday through Friday as protests triggered by Covid-19 vaccine measures spread.

New violence was reported in the territory despite a night curfew after more than a week of unrest on the nearby French island of Guadeloupe.

Five police officers were injured by gunfire on Martinique and five others by objects thrown at them during operations, according to police figures sent to AFP.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal called the unrest “totally unacceptable” and promised “firmness” in dealing with the troublemakers.

Four journalists, including an AFP photographer, were shot at by men on a motorcycle late Thursday while working in the largest Martinique city of Fort-de-France. No one was injured.

The protests in Guadeloupe were started by fierce opponents of mandatory vaccination for health workers and firefighters on the island – a measure already implemented on the French mainland.

The protests, which saw barricades erected on roads, have since become a major movement to express frustration over alleged neglect of the islands of Paris.

The areas are popular with wealthy tourists, but the level of poverty and unemployment for the locals is far higher than in the French mainland, leading to protracted complaints.

The vaccination rate in the territory is also lower than on the mainland, where less than half of the population has encountered Covid in Guadeloupe.

A strict night exit ban was announced for Martinique on Thursday, reflecting a similar measure that has been in place in Guadeloupe since November 19.

Hundreds of police reinforcements have also been sent to the islands.

No government minister has visited the region since protests began, but Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecornu will travel “shortly,” an AFP aide said.

The trip “can not be organized under pressure and must be part of an initiative to provide clear and common commitments”, the helper added on condition of anonymity.

The leaders of the protest movement in Guadeloupe have called for mandatory vaccinations to be dropped on the island, something the French government has ruled out.

The unrest comes at a sensitive time in France’s control of its overseas territories ahead of a third and final independence referendum in Pacific New Caledonia.

Pro-independence forces have promised to boycott the vote on December 12.

(AFP)

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