On Decomber 12, protestors erected barricades, made up of burning vehicles, on several axes: on the Sandy Ground bridge, in Saint James, Marigot, Grand Case and Quartier d’Orléans.
Protesters have risen up against the new Natural Hazard Prevention Plan. The Natural Hazard Prevention Plan (PPRN), produced by the State services of the French colonial government, attempts to condemn local housing as ‘unsafe’ following the ravages of Hurricane Irma. It prohibits reconstruction of residences in coastal zones, inhabited largely by low-income populations. Many residents understand the French government is waging a veiled campaign to drive poor, black residents off their land through condemnation so it can be sold to developers.
The campaign has become a flash point in an increasingly contentious relationship between the French government and the local population bristling against French bureaucracy and overseas control.
Jah Bash, a farmer, said that the population’s patience with an overbearing French state was wearing thin. “For me, it’s a conspiracy to take over the island,” said Mr. Bash, whose family has lived in Sandy Ground for five generations. “It’s about wealth.”
“The only way to get your attention is to do something to you that you fear,” he said. “The country will burn easily.”
The island that Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten occupy was divided between the French and the Dutch in the 17th century. The territory was not completely conquered until the mid-17th century when most of the indigenous population perished in the struggle between the French, English (later British), Dutch, Danes and Spanish for control of the West Indies islands around the Caribbean Sea. Africans, kidnapped into slavery, were brought there in the 18th century to work on sugarcane plantations by the French and Dutch.