12 Aug 2009

Huge crowd marches in New Caledonia against violence

12:50 pm on 12 August 2009

An estimated 20,000 people have joined a rally in the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, to denounce the recent violence which had caused disruptions in mainly Noumea and left scores of police injured.

The march is being supported by employers, anti-independence parties and unions, with a spokesperson saying their action is to express their will to work on a common destiny.

Many businesses have remained closed to allow staff to join the rally.

Today's action follows nearly daily clashes earlier this month when French riot police and supporters of the USTKE union skirmished amid a labour dispute at a local airline and a union campaign for the release of its jailed leader, Gerard Jodar.

The march comes as the USTKE union, along with some pro-independence politicians and the Rheebu Nuu environmental organisation, has announced a day of action on August the 22nd in part to denounce what it says is a disproportionate police repression.

There have been claims of police brutality, with the news agency AFP quoting a case of a bystander who was seriously injured although he had no role in the demonstrations.