A protest against Uber in Mexico 'paralysed the roadways' before turning into a violent street riot

Uber protests in Guadalajara MexicoLuis Alberto Fuentes/TwitterTaxi drivers clash with merchants and other bystanders during protests against the ride-hailing service Uber in Guadalajara, Mexico, in March 2016.

A protest against Uber in Guadalajara, Mexico, turned violent on Tuesday, as taxi drivers demonstrating against Uber and other ride-hailing services clashed with supporters of the companies and with police.

The protest “paralysed the roadways” in the city after a “massive closure of avenues with at least two thousand vehicles,” according to Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

The protesters were calling on the local government to punish private vehicles that were offering Uber services, according to Mexico City-based newspaper Milenio, and were asking for the government to develop a fair proposal for the ride-hailing service to operate.  

The tweet below shows taxi drivers amassing in the city center and blocking roadways with their vehicles. The drivers were gathering outside the state congress building.

The protest was announced last week with the intention of it happening before the state congress discussed the regulation of the ride-hailing services in the state of Jalisco, of which Guadalajara is the capital.

A local workers’ organisation said allowing Uber into the Guadalajara market would be a “severe blow” to the traditional taxi business and that the ride-hailing service would be “unfair competition.”

“Uber is affecting us a lot. They’re taking the food off our table,” a taxi driver in Guadalajara told Vice News in August last year. “I’ve been working for 23 years but there are people who have been taxi drivers for 50 years, people who are old, who won’t find work anywhere else.”

The demonstration on Tuesday turned violent however, as protesting taxi drivers, supporters of the ride-hailing services, and local authorities clashed on the streets of Guadalajara.

“#Disturbance in #taxistasvsuber,” the tweet below reads in English, as “people throw objects from rooftops” onto the streets below.

Fighting between protesting taxi drivers and merchants and bystanders also erupted in the Plaza de la Tecnologia, in the center of the city.

En momentos…@C7Jalisco con @TriniRodriguezL la batalla entre taxistas y comerciantes de Plaza de la Tecnología pic.twitter.com/qtOlgECZ5C
— Luis Alberto Fuentes (@jaliscoesuno) March 9, 2016

The clashes in the Plaza de la Tecnologia reportedly started after someone, either a merchant or a shopper, assaulted a protesting tax driver. The taxi drivers responded, after which people, reportedly Uber sympathizers, took to rooftops and began throwing objects at demonstrators below, according to a local official.

The violence in the Plaza de Tecnologia led to the arrest of at least 43 people and left one official injured.  

En minutos la crónica d manifestación que culminó en batalla campal en #GDL @TriniRodriguezL @C7Jalisco pic.twitter.com/Kl4d3KmQR8
— Luis Alberto Fuentes (@jaliscoesuno) March 9, 2016

In response, Uber was offering two free rides up to 100 pesos each, or about $5.60, to users in the city. Uber drivers reportedly took to social media to advertise the deal.

This is not the first violent incident related to Uber’s operations in Guadalajara.

In August of last year, several Uber drivers were abducted at gunpoint, with several of them pistol-whipped before having their cars stolen. The abductions came after a series of violent encounters in the city throughout the summer, according to Vice News.

Uber began operations in six Mexican cities on March 8, adding to the eight cities it had operated in since late 2013, according to El Financiero. At the end of 2015, Uber reportedly had 1.2 million users in Mexico, serviced by about 39,000 drivers.

Mexican taxi drivers are not the only ones to push back against the ride-hailing service. In Colombia in November, Uber was given a six-month deadline to formally register its operations or face a ban; the order was followed by a $140,000 fine for “unauthorised taxi services” this month.

In January, taxi drivers in France protested against Uber throughout the country, with violent clashes shutting down parts of Paris.

Uber was not immediately available for comment.

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