Anti-Vaccine Protesters Throw Urine on Hospital Director and Colleague, Smash Up Car

Anti-vaccine protestors on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Tuesday threw urine on a local hospital's director and deputy general director, as well as smashed a car, officials said Wednesday.

The attack happened outside the island's University Hospital Center as police attempted to escort the director and other staff to safety. The director lost consciousness for a short period during the incident, and the crowd ripped the deputy general director's clothes, the hospital said, adding that urine was thrown at both of them.

An executive assistant's vehicle was also extensively damaged, officials said.

"These deliberate abuses are unacceptable and intolerable," Alexandre Rochatte, Guadeloupe's prefect, said in a statement.

Rochatte said the government will pursue legal action against those responsible.

On Wednesday, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said what occurred is "shameful. It's revolting. It's scandalous. And it's inadmissible in the republic."

A health workers' union organized Tuesday's protest, along with ones prior that turned violent, in opposition to vaccine mandates and other measures. The union told local media that its members are looking to reclaim wages lost after suspension for not receiving a COVID vaccine, as mandated by law.

Guadeloupe's population of approximately 400,000 people has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in France.

Guadeloupe, Anti-Vaccine Protest, Violent
During a protest on Tuesday outside the University Hospital Center on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a hospital director and other staff were physically attacked as police attempted to escort them to safety. In this photo, a demonstrator holds a sign reading "Freedom can't be injected" during a protest march over coronavirus measures and social grievances in Pointe-a-Pitre on the island of Guadeloupe on November 27, 2021. Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

The French government declared a "state of health emergency" for Guadeloupe and several other overseas territories Wednesday, citing a "considerable rise" in virus cases due to Omicron's fast spread, calling it a "health catastrophe putting the population's health in danger." The measure allows the government to issue decrees that temporarily curtail freedoms, including restrictions on movements, trade, entrepreneurship and gatherings. It also enables the government to requisition necessary goods and services to fight against a health disaster.

Vaccinations are mandatory for all French health workers, while France's COVID-19 health pass is required to enter food establishments, cultural venues and sport arenas, and for long-distance travel. The measures have met the stiffest opposition in Guadeloupe and Martinique, prompting rioting that also reflects long-running frustrations over inequality with the French mainland.

Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France, uses the euro currency. One-third of the island's population lives below the poverty line, and the cost of living is higher than on the French mainland. Water supplies have been a major problem in recent years because of obsolete pipes.

Anger over France's handling of a toxic pesticide in Caribbean banana fields also has fueled mistrust in the government's COVID-19 vaccine policies, along with misinformation shared on WhatsApp or Telegram groups.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.