Curfew Imposed in New Caledonia Following Protests Over Constitutional Change

By John Mercury May 15, 2024

The authorities in New Caledonia, a semiautonomous French territory in the South Pacific, put a curfew in place on Tuesday and banned all public gatherings after protests over a proposed constitutional change turned violent overnight.

France’s High Commission of the Republic in New Caledonia said on Tuesday that a “massive mobilization” of security and defense forces had been sent to quell the protests. In addition, a curfew was imposed in the capital, Noumea, for Tuesday night, and all public gatherings were banned along with the sale of alcohol and the transportation of weapons, the High Commission said.

The international airport in Noumea shut down and canceled all commercial flights on Tuesday, and some consulates in the city shut their doors.

The protests started on Monday, before a scheduled Tuesday vote in the French Parliament on a change to New Caledonia’s Constitution that would expand French citizens’ eligibility to vote in provincial elections. Some pro-independence activists in the territory fear that the amendment would water down their movement.

Many police officers were injured in the unrest, the High Commission said on Tuesday morning, adding that shops, pharmacies, supermarkets and car dealers in the capital and some outlying areas had sustained damage. At least 36 people were arrested, the commission said.

Christy Powell, an Australian tourist who was staying in Noumea, said on Tuesday night that she could hear intermittent explosions even though the streets around her were quiet because of the curfew. Throughout the day, thick black smoke had billowed from the direction of the protests in the city center, she said.

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