French Interior Minister calls for UberPop ban as taxi strike turns violent

France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called on authorities to immediately ban the ride-sharing app UberPop, after violence erupted during today's taxi strikes which shut down traffic in the country's major cities.

The strike follows previous protests by France's taxi drivers who argue that US-based Uber have harmed their business by offering cheaper services without having the necessary professional registration. Cabbies in France have to pay up to €240,000 for their licenses before they are able to legally pick up passengers.

The UberPop service offers drivers who have not received the mandatory 250 hours of professional training to connect with passengers via an app and offer lower rates than cabbies.

Cab drivers have called on the government to ban UberPop, claiming that it gives their competitors an unfair advantage at a time when demand for licensed taxis is falling. National daily Le Monde, estimate that there are currently around 400,000 UberPop users in France.

As cabbies blocked traffic in cities and set fire to tyres on nearby streets, Cazeneuve asked police to issue a decree banning UberPop and branding the company's services as "illegal activity," French left wing daily Liberation reports.

"France is run by the rule of law," Cazeneuve said, "I call on all those who are [on strike] not to commit any violence."

Cazeneuve's comments came after the cabbie strike on Paris's Peripherique ring road paralysed traffic in and out of the capital today, with Marseille, Tolouse, Nice and Strasbourg also seeing manifestations by taxis. Many took to Twitter to vent their frustration and to show the extent of the chaos.

Les artères de la place Denfert Rochereau toujours bloquées par les taxis en grève contre Uber.

— Morgane Le Cam (@MorganeLeCam) June 25, 2015

Grunge singer Courtney Love Cobain who is in France today also took to social media to express her frustration, claiming she was "safer in Baghdad" after apparently being attacked for hailing an Uber ride upon arrival at a Paris airport.

paid some guys on motorcycles to sneak us out, got chased by a mob of taxi drivers who threw rocks, passed two police and they did nothing

— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) June 25, 2015

The musician claimed she eventually paid motorcyclists to help her get to the city. Police have not yet verified this incident.

#taxi #marseille ils mettent feu à des pneus

— Fanny Fontan (@FannyFontan) June 25, 2015

At least two UberPop drivers in Strasbourg have already been assaulted by taxi drivers posing as customers with more instances of violence against both Uber drivers and clients reported in other parts of the country, according to French public broadcaster RFI.

On Tuesday Paris's public prosecutor Francois Molins promised to crack down on cabs which are not licensed, threatening to begin seizing vehicles. "We will raise the level of the criminal justice response, particularly against repeat offenders", Molins said.

A law which came into force in 2014 has made it illegal to put clients in touch with drivers who are not registered professionals, but Uber has defended itself in court and to continues operating UberPop in France. A decision on the service's legality is due to be taken in the next three months according to UberPop.

Meanwhile the protests appear to have created collateral damage as the CEO of the French-based AlloCab service, which connects drivers and passengers via an app similarly to Uber, told Newsweek that their drivers have also been attacked.

"Our position is that we want taxi drivers and our drivers to continue working with mutual respect," Yannis Kiansky said. "Unlike UberPop, our drivers are professional, fully licensed ones but we have still had to ask them to travel discreetly at this time to maintain passenger and driver safety."

"We sent our customers information telling them that we were afraid that Taxi drivers will put us in the same bag as UberPop so they are now asked to ride with our driver on the front seat," he added.

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