Dead man shot by police in New Caledonia; unrest continues

PARIS (AP) — A man shot by police in the territory of New Caledonia in the French Pacific died from his injuries, becoming the eighth person to die in several weeks of unrest sparked by changes in electoral laws that, according to the indigenous Kanak people, could marginalize them and their fight for independence. The police told investigators that on Monday, several armed men rammed a rental car carrying gendarmes with a pickup truck and opened fire on the road between Noumea, the capital, and the territory’s international airport. Two men were injured when the gendarmes responded to the attack, according to a statement from the territory’s prosecutor’s office. One of the men, injured in the head by a «ballistic projectile,» died on Friday, the prosecutor Yves Dupas said on Saturday. The official ordered an autopsy of the deceased, who was 26 years old.

Among the eight dead since the start of the violence in mid-May in New Caledonia, which is 10 time zones and over 33,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) from Paris, are two police officers. The other man injured by gunfire on Monday was wounded in an arm. The police noted that when their members were transporting the men to the hospital, they were attacked by protesters at checkpoints who threw rocks at them, according to Dupas. Decades of tensions between those seeking independence and those loyal to France erupted in response to attempts by the government of French President Emmanuel Macron to amend the French Constitution and change the voter lists in New Caledonia. Independentist parties and Kanak leaders fear that the electoral legislation will benefit politicians in New Caledonia who are pro-France and further marginalize the Kanak people, who have faced sharp economic disparities and decades of discrimination.

In May, France immediately sent hundreds of reinforcements to the territory to help the police quell the uprising, which saw shootings, clashes, looting, and arson. Both sides of the deeply divided New Caledonia erected barricades, either to oppose the authorities or to protect their homes and other properties. Local authorities have imposed a nighttime curfew in the archipelago, which will be in effect until June 17. New Caledonia became a French territory in 1853, during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III, nephew and heir of Napoleon. It became an overseas territory after World War II, and in 1957, French citizenship was granted to all Kanaks.