Protests against COVID-19 curbs, including mandatory stabbings for health workers, are hitting the Caribbean island territory.
French authorities have announced that they are taking control of some fuel stations in the Caribbean island of Martinique due to concerns over fuel supplies after days of protests against measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Residents who are angry about the management of the pandemic – and specifically about vaccination requirements for health workers – have erected burning barriers in recent days and in some cases gunfire exchanged with police.
The vaccine mandate also applies to health workers on the French mainland, but it has hit a nerve among the majority Black population in Martinique and the neighboring island of Guadaloupe.
Some called the mandate a setback to the slavery era and insisted that they be allowed to make their own choices about health treatment.
The prefect of Martinique said in a statement that he is taking over seven fuel stations to ensure provision for emergency workers such as firefighters and ambulances “due to supply risks at filling stations”.
Protesters have set up roadblocks in recent days that have included burning cars in some cases.
Local authorities cleared the rubble, a witness told Reuters news agency after a union leader demanded that the barriers be lifted due to violence.
Serge Letchimy and Lucien Saliber of the Martinique Territorial Collective (CTM), an administrative body that manages the island, called for calm and condemned the violence that took place near barricades. “We must appeal to everyone to remain calm,” the CTM wrote on its Twitter account.
France’s BFM TV, referring to police, had earlier said gunshots had been fired for a second night.
Alexane Ozier-Lafontaine, 21, a Martinique teacher who joined the protests, said people were angry about issues including the vaccine mandate and the cancellation of a local holiday.
She also said tourists have less restrictions on their movements than locals.
“People are very angry about it,” Ozier-Lafontaine said in a telephone interview Wednesday, adding she heard gunshots Tuesday night.
Protesters are also angry about the use of a chemical pesticide called chlordecone at banana plantations in Guadeloupe and Martinique. The pesticide has been linked to exceptionally high levels of prostate cancer on both islands.
Agricultural workers have been exposed to chloodekoon for decades, a situation that French President Emmanuel Macron called an “environmental scandal”, according to French media.