France sends in police special forces as Covid rioting spreads

French authorities dispatch special police forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, one of the country’s overseas territories, as riot protests against Covid-19 restrictions broke out.

It comes as an estimated 35,000 people marched through downtown Brussels on Sunday to protest the stepped up Covid-19 measures the government has imposed to counter the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

And the Dutch police have now arrested more than 30 people in riots in The Hague and other cities in the Netherlands that followed an “orgy of violence” the night before in a protest against coronavirus restrictions.

Now French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin condemned “unacceptable” violence in Guadeloupe and said that 50 officers from special police forces should arrive in Guadeloupe. These would be sent to the Caribbean island in addition to 200 other police officers from mainland France.

The move takes place after several days of protests and road blockades.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, Mr Darmanin said that “some shots have been fired at police officers” in Guadeloupe and that there has been looting. Videos posted on social media revealed street equipment, cars and some buildings were set on fire.

French media said several buildings in downtown Pointe-a-Pitre, the island’s largest city, had been destroyed.

Road blockades put hospitals in a “very difficult situation” for a few hours, in which patients and supplies could not reach the hospitals, Darmanin said.

“The state will stand firm,” he said, adding that at least 31 people had been arrested by the police.

The Prefect of Guadeloupe, Alexandre Rochatte, had imposed a night curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Friday.

Mr Rochatte said in a statement Saturday that some electrical systems near dams had been damaged, causing blackouts for some customers. He warned of the risk of electric shock to those near the dams and urged people not to touch electrical cables.

The protests were called by unions to denounce the Covid-19 health passport, which is required for access to restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sports arenas and long-distance travel.

Protesters are also protesting against vaccinations for health workers in France.

The passport shows people are fully vaccinated, recently had a negative test, or evidence of a recent recovery from Covid-19.

Mr Darmanin said around 80% of health workers on the island have been vaccinated.

In Belgium, an estimated 35,000 people protested against the urgent recommendation to get vaccinated and against all steps to impose compulsory vaccinations.

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Shouting “Freedom, Freedom, Freedom” and singing the anti-fascist song Bella Ciao, demonstrators stood behind a banner that read “Together for Freedom”.

In the crowd, the signs varied from right-wing extremist insignia to the rainbow coalition flags of the LGBT community. There were smoke bombs and fireworks, but no significant violence, as the first protesters reached the terminus outside the European Union headquarters.

In the last few days there have been marches in many European countries as government after government tightened measures.

Dutch police have arrested more than 30 people in riots in The Hague and other cities in the Netherlands that followed an “orgy of violence” the night before during a protest against coronavirus restrictions.

The violence by youth groups in The Hague and elsewhere was not as severe on Saturday as it was on Friday in Rotterdam, where police opened fire on rioters and arrested 51 people.

Police said on Sunday that they had arrested 19 people in The Hague and put out a fire in a street with a water cannon.

and Tens of thousands of demonstrators – many from right-wing extremist groups – marched through Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown on Monday to contain the exploding coronavirus infections.

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