In a scene reminiscent of those in Paris recently, a thousand Rio de Janeiro taxi drivers protested against ride-sharing company Uber, blocking major roadway and bringing traffic to almost a complete stand still.
Uber, in typical scofflaw fashion, aggressively countered the protests by giving away free rides to customers to help ease transport issues on what it termed a "difficult day for getting around."
Uber has been attacked, literally and figuratively, around the world in recent weeks, by taxi drivers angry at Uber drivers not having to be pay huge licensing fees and therefore being able to undercut their rates. Taxi unions in several countries also claim because Uber drivers do not need to be licensed, passengers are not covered by insurance, nor are the Uber cars.
In France a few weeks ago. taxi drivers blocked streets, set Uber drivers cars on fire and attacked their drivers.These protests resulted in the French Parliament moving to ban Uber car and the company being forced to stop its car sharing services throughout the country.
In Canada this week the company was on the receiving end of a $400 million class action lawsuit against its UberX and UberXL ride sharing services.
Brazil's lawmakers voted to ban Uber as a result of the protest but the bills have yet to be approved by both houses of Government.
In Rio, taxi drivers formed a yellow taxi chain stretching for 3 miles along a major thoroughfare connecting the well to do south zone of the city to the central business district, chanting and honking their horns.
Taxi driver Alexander Campos said "We want to combat the illegal (drivers). We are the official ones, we have a responsibility, we are professionals who have families."
Uber released statement saying it defends customers having a choice and that "innovation is crucial" in cities like Rio which have "a population in need of more options and [that] receives millions of tourists a year," offering people two free rides for tweeting supportive messages with the hashtag #RIONAOPARA or "Rio doesn't stop."
The bold campaign by Uber could be a sign that its previous strategy is fighting challenges through the courts is failing and that it now needs popular opinion to change the mind of lawmakers, who are known to have cosy relations with the powerful taxi industry.