Sun, 05 Dec 2021

BASSE-TERRE, Guadeloupe: Protests against COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting and looting for the third consecutive day on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France, prompting French authorities to send police special forces to the island.

At 33 percent vaccinated, compared to 75 percent across France, the island's 400,000 people struggle with low vaccination rates.

On Sunday, firefighters were called out 48 times overnight, while road blocks set up by protesters made traveling across the island nearly impossible.

In Pointe-a-Pitre, the island's largest urban area, clashes left three people injured, including an 80-year-old woman hit by a bullet while on her balcony. A firefighter and a police officer were also injured and several shops were looted.

Also on Sunday, Guadeloupe Prefect Alexandre Rochatte, who has imposed a subsequent curfew, denounced the violence, noting that 38 people were arrested overnight.

Pointe-a-Pitre resident Emilie Guisbert, 47, whose home in the building owned by her father was set on fire on Thursday evening, told The Associated Press, "I lost everything. I went out with my cellphone and what I was wearing. It is 100 years of memory of a Guadeloupean family that went up in smoke in 15 minutes."

Unions called for the protests to denounce France's COVID-19 health pass, which is required for entering restaurants, cafes, cultural venues, sports arenas and long-distance travel, as well as mandatory vaccinations for health care workers.

The unions also broadened their demands to include a general wage increase, more unemployment benefits and the hiring of more teachers.

In an interview Sunday with Le Parisien newspaper, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin denounced the violence as "unacceptable," noting that 50 police special forces officers were arriving Sunday on the island, adding to the 200 offers sent earlier.

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