France’s government declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia on Wednesday as it struggled to quell deadly riots in the semiautonomous French Pacific territory.

The French authorities have undertaken what they called a “massive” mobilization of security forces since violent protests broke out in New Caledonia this week over a proposed amendment to the French Constitution that would change local voting rules in the territory. A vote in France’s Parliament approving the amendment on Tuesday ignited riots overnight that left four people dead, including a law enforcement officer.

“The priority is to restore order, calm and serenity,” Gabriel Attal, France’s prime minister, told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The French government said that more than 1,800 security officers were already in the territory and that 500 reinforcements would arrive in the next 24 hours. At a crisis meeting, Mr. Attal said that the army was being deployed to secure ports and the airport.

Several businesses and public buildings, including schools, have been looted or set on fire — with more than 130 people arrested, according to the French High Commission. Hundreds of people have been wounded.

The state of emergency, which will last 12 days, gives the authorities more policing powers, allowing them to enact traffic bans, put people under house arrest, ban protests and carry out raids without normal judicial oversight.

source

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