Protesters in the French Caribbean overseas territory of Guadeloupe were on Friday occupying the local legislature, in a new flare-up of a standoff with Paris sparked by Covid rules.
According to France24, protesters first entered the debating chamber of the regional council while it was meeting on Thursday with several staying the night and deciding to continue their action into Friday. Councillors were able to leave peacefully.
They want to negotiate with Paris over the crisis, but officials have so far indicated that there can be no talks as long as such actions are carried out. The protesters notably want all sanctions halted against health workers who have refused the Covid jab.
“We’re here and as long as we don’t have a commitment because we have nothing at all, we have absolutely nothing, so as long as we don’t have a firm commitment, an urgent meeting, we’ll stay here,” said Maite Hubert M’toumo, general secretary of the general union of Guadeloupean workers, in the legislature.
Raphael Cece, of the newspaper Rebelle, added: “We are not against the vaccine, but we are fighting against this injustice, the sanctions, the mandatory vaccines for health workers.”
France’s Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecornu lashed out at their action, tweeting: “No demand justifies hindering the smooth running of an assembly of elected officials in the middle of a plenary session.”
Covid vaccination rates in France’s Caribbean territories are far lower than those in mainland France, and there are concerns that the new wave created by the fast-spreading Omicron variant could spark serious problems.
The crisis brought the island to a standstill last month when protesters set up barricades around major roads.
Health workers who did not want to be vaccinated will be suspended from December 31 but can be helped to transition into other work.
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