Like its neighbor Guadeloupe, Martinique has seen protests against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.
Gunshots were fired at police on the French Caribbean island of Martinique in a sign that unrest was caused by COVID-19 restrictions hitting the nearby island of Martinique. Guadeloupe can spread.
No police were injured and cases have subsided overnight since the riots, a Martinique police officer said Tuesday, but traffic was still slowed by barricades erected by protesters.
Protesters angry over mandatory vaccination rules for health workers, a requirement that also applies to mainland France, and other restrictions related to the coronavirus.
That anger led to a coalition of 17 trade unions launching a general strike in Martinique on Monday. In addition to ending the vaccination obligation, protesters are also calling for salary increases and lower gas prices.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Monday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.
“The patrols came under fire 9 mm [bullets] on several occasions, “said Joel Larcher, a public safety spokesman for Fort Martin de Martinique, the capital of Martinique. “Impacts were noticed on the vehicles.”
Gunfire has also targeted police over the past few days in Guadeloupea, a neighboring Caribbean archipelago that is also a French territory.
In Guadeloupe, a general strike entered its second week and many shops remained closed after night looting amid protests against COVID-19 restrictions.
The situation remains “very difficult” in Guadeloupea, France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France Inter radio.
“There are still scenes of extreme violence with police forces being shot at with real ammunition,” he said, adding that about 200 additional police officers deployed since Sunday had helped stem some of the unrest.
Compulsory vaccination has affected a nerve among the Guadeloupe population, descended from slaves who worked on French sugar plantations. During the 20th century, many people were also systematically exposed to toxic pesticides used in banana plantations.
The Caribbean islands were hit in the second half of this year by a new wave of coronavirus infections causing closures and flight cancellations and overwhelming hospitals, just as tourism began to show signs of recovery.