French sending special forces to Guadeloupe amid COVID pass riots
PARIS (AP) — French authorities are sending police special forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France, as protests over COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin denounced “unacceptable” violence in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper that was published Sunday.
He said that 50 officers from police special forces are due to arrive in Guadeloupe.
They come in addition to 200 other police sent to the Caribbean island from France's mainland.
The move comes after several days of protests and road blockades.
Darmanin said following an emergency meeting Saturday in Paris that “some shots have been fired against police officers” in Guadeloupe and there has been looting.
Videos posted on social media showed that street equipment, cars and some buildings have been set on fire.
French media said several buildings in the city centre of Pointe-a-Pitre, the island's largest city, have been destroyed.
Road blockades put hospitals in a “very difficult situation for a few hours” during which patients and supplies couldn't reach hospitals, notably leading to meals not being served, Darmanin said Saturday.
“The state will stand firm,” he said, adding that at least 31 people have been arrested by police.
Guadeloupe Prefect Alexandre Rochatte has imposed a nightly curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. since Friday.
Rochatte said in a statement Saturday that some electrical facilities near dams have been damaged, which has caused outages to some customers.
He warned about the risk of electrocution for those staying near the dams and urged people never to touch electrical cables.
The protests have been called for by trade unions to denounce the COVID-19 health pass that is required to access restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sport arenas, and long-distance travel.
Demonstrators are also protesting France's mandatory vaccinations for health care workers.
The pass shows that people are fully vaccinated, have had a recent negative test or proof of a recent COVID-19 recovery.
Darmanin said about 80% of health care workers on the island have been vaccinated.
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