French President Francois Hollande has condemned violent protests by taxi drivers against the car ride-booking app Uber, but maintained that the service should be taken off the road.
Hollande, speaking early on Friday morning, described the Paris demonstrations as “unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France”.
But Hollande, attending an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, added: “UberPOP should be dissolved and declared illegal”.
Around 3,000 traditional taxi drivers took part in the protests on Thursday, blocking access to the capital’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, setting fire to vehicles and preventing cars reaching train stations around the country.
Ten people were arrested, seven police officers were injured and 70 vehicles were damaged in clashes between Uber drivers and taxi drivers.
One taxi driver told Al Jazeera that it was unacceptable for Uber drivers to share the market with traditional taxi drivers.
“Uber has no business here. Maybe in the United States it’s OK but in France we have regulations, said Mustafa, who did not give his family name.
The service, known as UberPOP, has been illegal in France since January but the law has proved difficult to enforce and it continues to operate.
In a toughening of the French stance, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ordered Paris police to issue a decree banning UberPOP and said cars defying the order would be seized.
“The government will never accept the law of the jungle,” he said in a television declaration on Thursday evening.
He also ordered local police chiefs and prosecutors to clamp down on what he said was a failure by Uber to pay social and tax charges in France.
However, the government stopped short of implementing the main demand of the protesters: a block on the smartphone app without which the on-demand UberPOP service cannot operate. That, officials said, would need a decision by the courts.
Uber spokesman Thomas Meister accused Cazeneuve of over-riding the normal legal process. “The way things work in a state of law is that it’s for the justice to judge whether something is legal or illegal,” he said.
A law from October 2014 placed a ban on putting clients in touch with unregistered drivers. Uber has contested the rule, saying it is unclear and counter to the freedom to do business.
Meister said he expected the Constitutional Council to give its view on the law in the next three months, adding that Uber considered part of it to be unconstitutional. Al Jazeera