French taxis on na­tion­wide strike af­ter many weeks of ris­ing ten­sion over Uber


French taxis went on a na­tion­wide strike Thurs­day, snarling traf­fic in ma­jor cities af­ter weeks of ris­ing, some­times vi­o­lent ten­sions over Uber. Trav­el­ers hop­ing to catch a flight walked along­side highways with their bags, and riot po­lice in Paris fired tear gas can­is­ters to clear strik­ers from a main en­trance to the city.

De­spite re­peated rul­ings against Uber’s low­est-cost of­fer­ing, its driv­ers con­tinue to ply French roads and the Amer­i­can mo­bile ride-call­ing com­pany is ac­tively re­cruit­ing driv­ers and pas­sen­gers alike. Uber claims to have 400,000 cus­tomers a month in France.

France’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said he had or­dered an im­me­di­ate ban on the ser­vice in the Paris re­gion but called for an end to vi­o­lence against Uber driv­ers.

“We are call­ing for calm. We are in a state of law,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve said. “A state of law is not a state of vi­o­lence.”

Court­ney Love Cobain was among those caught up in the air­port ten­sions, ac­cord­ing to a litany of tweets she sent Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

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

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 com­plain that livery ser­vices like Uber un­fairly un­der­cut them and in re­cent weeks nearly 100 Uber driv­ers have been at­tacked, some­times while car­ry­ing cus­tomers. One ir­ri­tated taxi pas­sen­ger was left with a bro­ken face and black eye af­ter he praised Uber.

“There are peo­ple who are will­ing to do any­thing to stop any com­pe­ti­tion,” said Thomas Meis­ter, a spokesman for Uber. “We are only the symp­tom of a badly or­ga­nized mar­ket.”

The French gov­ern­ment, mean­while, said nearly 500 le­gal cases have been filed across the coun­try in­volv­ing com­plaints about UberPop, the low­est cost ser­vice. The of­fi­cials re­it­er­ated con­cerns about safety of pas­sen­gers, in­sist­ing they are not pro­tected in case of an ac­ci­dent by an UberPop driver.

Strik­ers darted by the dozens onto Paris’ ring road near a main en­trance to the city to cre­ate traf­fic chaos, then dashed away as riot po­lice tried to catch them. The Lib­er­a­tion news­pa­per said taxi driv­ers at­tacked a pho­tog­ra­pher. At the air­ports, po­lice were check­ing en­ter­ing cars in hopes of avoid­ing more vi­o­lence.


French CRS riot po­lice face de­mon­stra­tors as strik­ing taxi driv­ers block the Boule­vard Pe­riph­erique near Porte Mail­lot in Paris on Thurs­day, June 25.

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