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Furious French taxi drivers and farmers ramp up protests

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Furious French taxi drivers and farmers ramp up protests
Photo: AFP
07:40 CET+01:00
French taxi drivers continued to hold protests in cities across France on Wednesday as they aimed to put pressure on the government to bow to their demands. In the west farmers also blocked roads.

Tuesday saw thousands of taxi drivers across the country block strategic roads on the edges of towns or the entrances to airports, with Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly both affected.

Late on Tuesday night, unions announced that the protests would be carried on into a second day with taxi drivers deciding to spend the night at places where they had gathered.

The protests continued despite the efforts of Prime Minister Manuel Valls to appease them by launching a consultation and appointing an independent mediator.

Hundreds of taxi drivers blocked Porte Maillot on the western edge of Paris overnight on Tuesday, ignoring a police plea for protesters to return home.

"We are determined. We will not be moving," said Ibrahima Sylla, from the group Taxis de France.

Wednesday is expected to see similar disruption on city ring roads like the peripherique in Paris, where protesters had burned tyres on Tuesday, as well as around train stations and airports.

READ ALSO: Why everyone seems to loathe French taxi drivers

Protesters were at Porte Maillot and Bercy in the east of the city as motorists hit the roads on Wednesday morning. Police have advised motorists to stay off the roads on Wednesday and avoid the eastern and western edges of Paris as well as the two airports.

The drivers were prepared for lengthy protests with one union leader telling French TV they had brought enough food to allow them to continue their blockades for as long at it takes.

Taxi drivers are furious over the government's inaction against what they see as unfair competition from private hire firms and companies like Uber.

“These companies like Uber are taxis but without the same rules. These VTCs are like hidden taxis that don't respect the laws," one protesting driver told The Local on Tuesday.

“The VTCs need to go or need to pay the same charges. I'm three, four, months behind with what I owe,” said another named Zacouzac, who was part of the blockade at Porte Maillot.

“Taxi drivers, we start a career by paying €3,000 or more and they, they get a GPS and a suit and voila.”

But while the taxi drivers may have valid complaints they were once again condemned for violent protests.

There were over 20 arrests made in Paris and there were numerous reports of Uber cars being attacked and having windows smashed.

One VTC driver in Lille was also beaten up.

"There is a right to protest... even during a state of emergency," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls, referring to measures imposed after the November attacks in Paris.

"But violence is unacceptable."

In the west of  the country it was French farmers who showed their anger towards the government by blocking certain key roads.

On Tuesday Farmers upset over falling prices also blocked roads with tractors in several rural areas and dumped manure outside some tax offices. Their unions are demanding distributors and major food companies pay more for produce and
livestock.

Brittany was once again set to be the focus of their protests despite the French government announcing a massive aid package for farmers on Tuesday.

The region, which has been badly hit by the ongoing crisis in French farming, could see its roads around major towns like Brest, Quimper and Morlaix all blocked.

The roads below were all set to see blockades put in place.

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