A scuffle broke out between protesters and police in Madagascar Wednesday as citizens took to the street to denounce anti-lockdown measures to contain COVID-19.
Tensions heightened after a police officer allegedly beat a street vendor, accused of violating an afternoon ban on commercial activities. Images of the victim were shared on social media, sparking fury among residents of Toamasina in eastern Madagascar.
“People must respect the measures taken by the state and things will work out. But the police are severe and they scare people, that’s why people are extremely angry with them, and that’s why the situation in Tamatave is tense”, an eyewitness said.
I am very afraid of the police but faced with the lack of money, we act as if we were not afraid.
A vendor told AFP that she was afraid of how the police operates during this lockdown.
“I am very afraid of the police but faced with the lack of money, we act as if we were not afraid”, she said.
Protesters burned tyres, blocked roads and pelted security officers with stones, who in-turn responded with rubber bullets. The police has denied committing any form of violence. They claim that the victim had returned home after a brief hospital visit.
Last week, the government dispatched troops and doctors to the town after two people died from the virus as the number of cases spiked. President Andre Rajoelina imposed a lockdown on Madagascar’s three main cities at the end of March in a bid to contain spread of infections.
Restrictions have been gradually lifted in the capital Antananarivo and in the southeastern city of Fianarantsoa, but Toamasina residents remain under confinement.