French authorities sent police special forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France, as protests over COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting and looting for the third day in a row.
On Sunday, many road blockades by protesters made traveling across the island nearly impossible. Firefighters reported 48 interventions overnight into Sunday morning.
In Pointe-a-Pitre, the island’s largest urban area, clashes left three people injured, including a 80-year-old woman who was hit by a bullet while on her balcony. A firefighter and a police officer were also injured and several shops were looted there and in other towns. A police station in Morne-à-l’Eau was set on fire.
Jacques Bertili, a 49-year-old Le Gosier resident, said, “I’m not against nor for the vaccine. But what makes me upset is looting. Because we need to work.”
The protests were called for by trade unions to denounce France’s COVID-19 health pass, which 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 island of 400,000 people has one of the lowest vaccination rates in France at 33%, compared with 75% across the country.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin denounced the violence as “unacceptable” in an interview Sunday with Le Parisien newspaper. He said 50 officers from police special forces were arriving Sunday in Guadeloupe. They come in addition to 200 other police sent to the Caribbean island from France’s mainland.
“The state will stand firm,” he said, adding that at least 31 people have been arrested.
Darmanin said following an emergency meeting Saturday in Paris that “some shots have been fired against police officers” in Guadeloupe. Videos on social media showed that some cars and buildings were set on fire.
Road blockades created a “very difficult situation for a few hours” during which patients and supplies couldn’t reach hospitals, Darmanin said Saturday.
Guadeloupe Prefect Alexandre Rochatte has imposed a nightly curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. since Friday.
Rochatte said some electrical facilities near dams have been damaged, which has caused some power outages, and urged people not to go near downed electrical cables.