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In Montpellier, Kanak and supporters of the Palestinian people demonstrated together "against colonialism" this Saturday, May 18. Photo by Mathieu Le Coz / Hans Lucas

New Caledonia: Kanak revolt confronts French state and settler militias

New Caledonia, located in the Pacific between Australia and Fiji, is an overseas territory of France and its former colony. The revolt started a week ago after a series of disputed independence referenda, and as a law was passed in mainland France that would give settlers a vote in future referenda. The state has brutally cracked down on the revolt, and now paramilitary settler militias have also been attacking and killing indigenous Kanak people.

French TV reports showed mobile gendarmes and police been battling young masked or hooded demonstrators, some of them armed with rifles and machetes. In addition to attacks on police and a prison revolt, several supermarkets were looted in the capital Nouméa and the neighbouring towns of Dumbéa and Mont-Dore. Firefighters recorded nearly 1,500 calls and identified around 200 outbreaks. Hundreds of cars were set on fire, as were more than thirty shops, factories and companies, according to a group of employers’ representatives.

Fire at a factory in Nouméa, May 14. Photo: Charlotte Mannevy

On Friday, 1,000 more police arrived to boost the 1,700 already on the island, and focussed on clearing the strategically important road between the capital and the airport which had been seized and blocked by locals. This is in addition to a curfew and restrictions on the sale of weapons and alcohol as well as ban on Tik Tok.

In addition to state repression, armed militias of settlers (nicknamed Caldoches), are also mobilizing against the revolt. These have had access to weapons since a 2011 decision to make it easier for people to own guns, specifically designed for European residents, to arm themselves. Three Kanaks have been killed – Two men aged 19 and 36 and a 17 year old girl. A video, authenticated by Le Monde appears to show a Caldoche shooting at 2 Kanaks.

In Monpellier on Saturday, Kanak and Palestine solidarity activists held a joint demonstration (pictured top). According to Trésor, a Kanak activist, “our existence as a people must be respected. Until now, the separatists have held peaceful marches to oppose the change, but now, in Kanaky, we refuse to speak to the leaders of the French state because we do not feel listened to”.

Top photo: Mathieu Le Coz / Hans Lucas

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