Protests against the vaccine in Guadeloupe are a headache for France

France will send about fifty special police officers to Guadeloupe, the Caribbean archipelago that makes up one of the country’s overseas regions, to handle the violent protests and looting of recent days against coronavirus restrictions, for which 31 people have already been arrested.

On Monday, a collective of trade unions called an indefinite strike – in which doctors and firefighters also took part – to protest against the obligation of vaccination for workers in the health sector and certification similar to the Italian “Green Pass”. Marches were then organized which soon turned into violent protests: some demonstrators built barricades on the streets, ransacked shops and set fires on six buildings in the historic center of Pointe-à-Pitre, four of which were destroyed by flames.

An unnamed police source told the news agency AFP that in the towns of Pointe-à-Pitre and Le Gosier, around twenty shops have been looted or robbed, including a jewelery shop, a bank and a betting center. Prefect Alexandre Rochatte said damage to electrical systems near some dams caused blackouts.

While most people in mainland France have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, in Guadeloupe less than half of adults have been vaccinated with one. In the French Caribbean, trust in a form of traditional medicine close to herbal medicine is widespread and many people are convinced that they can protect themselves from the coronavirus with a herbal syrup. In August, the Minister of the Overseas Regions Sébastien Lecornu said: “I don’t want to stigmatize anyone but the distrust in vaccines is cultural”.

During the protests of recent days in Guadeloupe there were also clashes with the police. In four different locations, demonstrators fired at police and one officer was injured by a stone that hit him in the face. Another police source said an armory was among the looted shops.

To counter the unrest, local authorities have imposed an extended curfew from Friday to Tuesday: you cannot leave the house from 6 to 5 in the morning. On Saturday evening, however, numerous groups of people gathered in various cities in the region disobeying the measure. Also because of the protests, many schools have been closed, as have post offices and courts.

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With reinforcements from France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin explained, police officers in Guadeloupe will rise to 2,250.