Last updateFri, 11 Mar 2016 6pm

Anti-Uber taxi protest turns nasty: 47 arrests as tech traders battle cabbies

Police made 47 arrests in the violence that erupted after the taxi drivers parked their rigs on 16 de Septiembre at the intersection of Lopez Cotilla.  The blockade restricted access to the Plaza de la Tecnologia, an indoor mall housing several hundred retailers of computer-related items and accessories. The traders became visibly angry as their business for the day was curtailed. 

3 12 16 1cThe confrontation kicked off when a group of traders began to chant “Uber, Uber,” enraging the cab drivers. The protestors hurled bricks at the occupants of the mall, who responded in kind by shooting off fire extinguishers, effectively using them as weapons.  Others gathered on the roof of the mall and lobbed bricks, metal poles, air-conditioning devices and other materials on to the parked cabs, shattering some of their windscreens. A few fist fights broke out before police reinforcements arrived and eventually quelled the riot.

Seven vehicles were damaged and one police officer was injured during the-five hour protest.

As the confrontation unfolded, representatives for the taxi drivers met with state legislators to express their dissatisfaction with proposals to regulate and “legitimize” online transportation firms such as Uber and City Drive that have been so successful in competing with established services.  After emerging from the meeting, taxi union leader Ramon Avila said he was “unhappy” at the outcome.  The yellow cab drivers are demanding that their vehicles, as well as Uber’s, also be considered as “executive taxis,” a distinction that the new law is expected to include.

Several legislators later told reporters that the timetable for discussing the proposals will not change and that a bill would shortly be presented on the floor of the state Congress.  

In a statement later in the day, Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval said he respected citizens’ right to protest but stressed he would not shy away from asking police to act with force when public order was threatened.

More than 600 police officers were dispatched to maintain order during the protest, although only around 40 acted to contain the rioters, reports suggest. Full traffic flow in the city center was restored by 5 p.m.  

The governor said legislation to regulate taxi services that he recently sent to Congress prioritizes customers’ interests, while seeking to include all cab drivers in the inevitable modernization processes brought on by new technology.  

Comments left on social media universally condemned Tuesday’s violent events and the attitude of the taxi drivers.  “The world according to the (yellow) cab drivers: Let’s block the entire city so customers will come back to us and no longer use Uber,” one critic said in a ironic post.

Thirty-two of the detainees were released Thursday, while 15 remained in custody. The Plaza de la Tecnologia had not re-opened by the time this newspaper went to press.

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