Martinique: Shootings at police officers: Anger grows over COVID restrictions

As in neighboring Guadeloupe, there are protests in Martinique against COVID-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccines. On the French island of Martinique, located in the Caribbean, shots were fired at police.

No police officers were injured, and the situation has calmed down after the overnight riots, a Martinique police spokesman said Tuesday, but traffic is still slowed by barricades erected by protesters.

Protesters were angered by mandatory vaccination rules for health workers, which also apply in mainland France, and other restrictions related to the coronavirus.

This anger led a coalition of 17 labor organizations to launch a general strike in Martinique on Monday. In addition to the abolition of mandatory vaccinations, the protesters are also demanding higher wages and lower gasoline prices.

Police came under fire Monday night as they tried to put out a dumpster fire that was blocking the highway, a spokesman told the AFP news agency.

“Patrols were hit several times by 9 mm [bullets],” said Joël Larcher, a public safety spokesman in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique. “There has been damage to vehicles.”

In the past few days, police have also come under fire in Guadeloupe, a neighboring Caribbean archipelago that is also French territory.

In Guadeloupe, a general strike is in its second week and many stores remain closed after nightly looting amid protests against COVID-19 restrictions.

The situation in Guadeloupe remains “very difficult,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanen told France Inter radio.

“There are still scenes of extreme violence there, with real bullets being fired at police officers,” he said, adding that about 200 additional police officers deployed since Sunday have helped quell some of the unrest.

Mandatory vaccinations have touched a nerve with Guadeloupeans who come from slaves who worked on French sugar plantations. In the 20th century, many people were also systematically exposed to toxic pesticides used on banana plantations.

A new wave of coronavirus infections hit the Caribbean in the second half of this year, causing flight closures and cancellations and overloading hospitals just as tourism was beginning to show signs of recovery.

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