Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Taxi drivers blockade Brussels Airport
But no, it turns out the story really is that bizarre. Last night police were making routine checks for unlicensed taxi drivers near the airport (who are notorious for swindling tourists by charging them three times the normal fare when they pull up to their hotel). According to the local paper La Derniere Heure, when the police signalled for one 28-year-old driver to stop he instead accelerated to speed away. The police officer jumped on the hood of his car, but the driver still didn't stop.
The police officer was then carried 2km (1.2 miles) along the road, clinging to the car for dear life. He fired into the car toward the dashboard, smashing the screen and forcing the driver to stop. A fight erupted and the police officer fired a shot that grazed the driver's shoulder. They then took him into custody.
When word got around the Brussels taxi drivers about the incident they spontaneously organised a blockade of the airport roads, having erroneously heard that the driver had been shot and killed. Likely knowing very little of the actual facts, the drivers held firm until 5am. After trying pepper spray to disperse the taxi drivers the stand-off was only ended when the police negotiated with the taxi drivers' trade union representative.
Apparently the taxi drivers involved in the protest, none of whom were arrested for the blockade, said they did not regret their actions after it emerged that the driver had been unlicensed, had sped away with an officer on his car nearly killing him, and had not been killed or injured but in fact only lightly grazed by a bullet.
This story reminds me of the incident a few months ago when the transit workers union in Brussels called an impromptu strike after hearing that a metro driver had been punched in the face by a passenger. By the end of the 1-day strike it emerged that in fact it had been the driver who punched the passenger. But there was no apology from the union.
Welcome to Belgium.