Irate French Taxi Drivers Smash Cars in Strike Against Uber – ABC News

Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2015

French taxi drivers pulled out the throttle in an all-out confrontation with the ultra-cheap Uber car service Thursday, smashing livery cars, setting tires ablaze and blocking traffic during a nationwide strike that caught tourists and celebrities alike in the mayhem.

Travelers going to and from the airport were forced to walk alongside highways with their bags, while others, including singer Courtney Love, had their cars set upon by striking taxi drivers.

“They’ve ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage,” Love tweeted. “They’re beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I’m safer in Baghdad,”

The French government was aghast, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls lamenting: “These incidents give a deplorable image to visitors of our country.”

Taxi drivers justified their rage, saying Uber’s lowest-cost service UberPop was ruining their livihoods.

Despite repeated rulings against it and an October law that explicitly outlaws UberPop, its drivers continue to ply French roads and the American ride-hailing company is actively recruiting drivers and passengers alike. Uber claims to have a total of 400,000 customers a month in France.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve rushed back from a trip to Marseille to meet with taxi unions, declaring afterward that UberPop must be shut down and its vehicles seized if caught by police carrying passengers. He said 70 vehicles had been damaged around France in Thursday’s protests and 10 people were arrested.

Cazeneuve said he would meet with UberPop officials to tell them their service is illegal. “It must, therefore, be closed,” he said. “The government will never accept the law of the jungle.”

He ordered a meeting of French anti-fraud officials Monday to put in place measures to immediately stop illegal taxis from servicing customers. Only a decision by the Justice Ministry can ban the App for UberPop, he said.

Earlier, Cazeneuve ordered an immediate ban on unlicensed drivers in the Paris region.

That didn’t phase Uber France chief Thibaud Simphal, who said on RTL radio he was telling his drivers “to continue.” He contended that thus far the justice system “has not demanded that UberPop be forbidden.”

Anger seethed across France, with riot police chasing strikers from Paris’ ring road, where protesters torched tires and swarmed onto exit ramps during rush hour on the busy artery that leads to Charles de Gaulle airport. In Toulouse in the southwest, angry taxi drivers dumped flour onto UberPop cars, tires were burned in Nantes in the west, and in Lyon, in the southeast, roads were blocked.

Love, Kurt Cobain’s widow, said she was ambushed while traveling from the airport, then saved by two men on a motorcycle. It wasn’t immediately clear what type of car she was riding in.

“paid some guys on motorcycles to sneak us out, got chased by a mob of taxi drivers who threw rocks, passed two police and they did nothing,” she tweeted.

She later posted a selfie of herself wearing a motorcycle helmet with her two smiling rescuers.

Uber’s more expensive livery service is still legal but a source of intense frustration for French taxi drivers, who pay tens of thousands of euros (dollars) for the equivalent of medallions and who face customer complaints that they are being resistant to changes such as credit cards and geolocation.

Taxi drivers in other European countries also complain that car services like Uber unfairly undercut them.

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