Taxi drivers all over the world have been protesting against ride-hailing services since they began years ago. Traditional taxi services have been unable to compete against ride-hailing services due to the difference in fares. It has become common practice for ride-hailing services, backed by hundreds of millions of investor dollars to undercut the taxi industry, subsidizing fares to a point where taxis cannot compete. Barcelona was the meeting place for hundreds of taxi drivers in Spain to partake in a two-day protest the growing popularity of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Cabify. Many wielding banners and flags, setting off fireworks and flares along the way. And it has also become uncommon for these protests to turn violent as it did this Wednesday.
A viral video now, shows a Cabify driver try to fend off attackers as they quickly swarm his car and start smashing his windows and yanking off his windshield wipers while there were passengers in the car. A spokesperson for Unauto VTC, the Spanish association for drivers of ride-hailing apps, released a statement saying there were dozens of assaults reported in Barcelona, two drivers were hospitalized, one of which suffered first-degree burns to his face from an acid attack. By Wednesday evening, fearing for the safety of their drivers, all ride-hailing services, including Uber and Cabify, suspended their services which left many tourists stranded across the city.
A trade union for Spanish taxis, STAC, condemned the violence on Twitter and going as far as describing the attackers as a minority. The violence did not stop the protests as Thursday saw taxis gather en masse on Spanish highways, lining up behind one another and by driving slowly, effectively clogging traffic. Ride-hailing services themselves have not been having an easy time in Spain. They have met repeated protests and regulatory struggles along the way. Uber was even pushed out for three years until the ride-hailing service made a deal that they would only hire professional, licensed drivers. According to Unauto VTC, the protests were triggered by a court ruling that suspended the need for additional regulations faced by ride-hailing operators. Taxi drivers opposes the deregulation of the ride-hailing sector and want the government to enforce a nationally set ratio of one ride-hailing vehicle for every 30 taxis.