A businessman from New Brunswick says he narrowly avoided injury after protesting taxi drivers in Ottawa smashed the rear windshield of the cab carrying him as a passenger.
The incident occurred Tuesday, as a dispute involving airport taxi drivers and Coventry Connections, their dispatcher, continued for a fifth week. At the heart of the dispute is an increased airport pickup fee charged by Coventry Connections.
George MacLeod of St. Stephen, N.B., said he hailed a Blueline Taxi to leave the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon.
Soon after the Blueline cab carrying MacLeod left the airport, airport taxi drivers attacked the vehicle on the Airport Parkway where they were delaying traffic in a sit-down protest as police looked on.
Protesters were caught on video attacking taxis, including the one carrying MacLeod in the back seat, along the parkway.
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"They just en masse approached our car with big metal bars and started slapping the car, broke the glass on the car," MacLeod said on Tuesday evening.
"I'm still picking glass out of my hair."
Despite taking monthly business trips to the nation's capital, MacLeod was unaware of the dispute.
'This is what happens'
Abed Madi, who leads the airport taxi driver unit for Unifor, the union representing taxi drivers, said Tuesday "this is what happens" when people are desperate.
"The drivers were walking up towards the airport and a cabbie with a fare, he saw them walking and he sped up. And they gathered around him and tried to talk to him and he wouldn't put his window down," Madi told CBC News. "And people lost their cool and whatever happened, people were frustrated. People are desperate. One guy was saying he has hardly any food left at home, and then a scab speeds up to him? People aren't going to take that.
"The driver, he should have stopped completely and not speed up towards the protesters. The other cabs were doing the same thing, they were speeding up towards them as if they don't exist. This is what happens."
Madi said he doesn't condone violence, he would discourage the protesting drivers from resorting to violence and he didn't know which drivers struck vehicles.
Asked what advice he had for residents hoping to avoid similar situations, Madi said, "Don't use a scab. Don't use a scab cab."
Ottawa police investigating
Ottawa police are investigating the attacks and said charges could be laid.
MacLeod credited his taxi driver for quickly driving to safety, but wondered why taxi passengers have become affected by protesters' actions.
'I'm just a paying customer. Keep me out of it.' - George MacLeod, taxi passenger
"I felt like I could've been injured. I'm not part of the protest," MacLeod said, "I'm just a paying customer. Keep me out of it."
The Ottawa Airport Authority expressed concern on Tuesday because the protest has directly affected its customers. It called on police to ensure protesters follow a court-ordered injunction and eliminate the violence.
It comes after three Blueline taxis had their windows smashed and tires slashed during overnight hours last week in the suburb of Barrhaven. The owners of the vandalized cabs told CBC News they believed the attackers were upset over fares being picked up from the airport.
Due to the strife between drivers of different taxi companies, MacLeod said he would "seriously consider" using Uber when travelling back to the airport to avoid any further violence, even though he has never used the service before.
Ottawa police are asking anyone with information about the taxi protest violence to call police at 613-236-1222, ext. 3566.