Taxi drivers erupted into fury at London’s City Hall after Mayor Boris Johnson labelled them “luddites” during a question time session.
Black cab drivers held parts of London to a stand still Wednesday protesting against Transport for London’s refusal to impose a stricter regulatory regime on taxi app rival Uber.
Cab drivers attended the mayor’s question time and were sitting in the public gallery with banners demanding action against “Uber lobbyists” when Johnson made the remark.
Police were called to the scene after the drivers shouted disapproval at the comment and threw papers across the London Assembly, with the deputy chair forced to suspend the sitting.
A member of security was knocked out during the chaos and hospitalized for minor injuries. Johnson criticized the cabbie’s behavior, saying there was “no excuse for violence.”
Outside the building, hundreds of taxi drivers protested and demanded the mayor come out and meet them. According to the London Evening Standard, 30 cabbies rushed into the building and were chased by the police and had to be escorted from the premises.
The mayor’s “luddite” comment was directed at the critics of the of zero-emissions electric vehicles. The question time session was later resumed in the basement of City Hall.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which was supportive of Wednesday’s Uber protests said, “I don’t think Boris’ Luddite comment was the smartest of moves but it escalated out of all proportion.
“From then on it all went downhill, a perfect storm of misinformation, chaos, bad management and bad over-reaction. The Labour opposition party didn’t approve of the behaviour but said the fault was with the mayor’s language rather than with the violent protesters.
“Whilst there is no excuse for the disruptive, and in some cases violent, actions of some in the audience, the mayor needs to understand that it was his name-calling which in part sparked today’s incident,” said Labour assembly leader Len Duvall.
Uber is facing stiff opposition in London from the established taxi industry as well as a legal challenge from its own drivers who claim the ridesharing company doesn’t provide them with the workers’ rights to which they are entitled because they are classified as partners, not employees.
The case was brought by the GMB Union that has joined mass protests against the company calling for greater regulation of the company. (RELATED: The California Playbook For Fighting Uber Has Gone International)
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