Police warn taxi drivers over Birmingham 'go-slow' protest
Police have warned protesters after two days of campaigning has caused chaos on a city's roads.
Black cab drivers in Birmingham have staged two days of a 'go-slow' protest in the city centre.
Around 40 cabbies filled Holloway Circus, Smallbrook Queensway and Bristol Street during rush hour, and travelled at 10mph, bringing traffic to a halt.
The two-hour crawl began just before 8am and caused chaos on the roads.
WATCH the protest bring chaos to city
The taxi drivers are protesting against the charges levied against them when the city council's Clean Air Zone is introduced, which is set to come into affect in January 2020.
Throughout the protest, buses were jammed on the busy routes forcing passengers to alight on roundabouts, while rail users were left with a shortage of cabs when they got off trains at Birmingham New Street station.
Police vow over cabbies' campaign
West Midlands Police posted on Twitter to reassure the public that they are monitoring the protest, and that they will take action if necessary.
They said: "If motorists are deliberately causing an obstruction, for example by getting out of their vehicles in the middle of the road or remaining in their vehicles while stationary, officers will take appropriate action.
"We've got officers in the city centre to assist with the free flow of traffic, and drivers who deliberately cause obstructions will be dealt with appropriately.
"We'll continue to monitor the demo over the coming days, as we respect the right to peaceful protest while ensuring that traffic is kept moving."
The taxi drivers have since apologised to the public for the disruption they are causing, but have warned that it could get worse.
What do protesters want?
Raja Amin, president for the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union Midlands council, which is leading the campaign, declared the demonstration a success and warned that even more drivers could join in over the course of week.
He said: “We wanted to show Birmingham City Council that we are not going to take their policy lying down.
“Most people said to us before that it is too early, people are on holiday, schools and colleges are closed, it might not have an impact.
“But the sheer number of drivers who turned up meant it was very successful.
“They didn’t even have to go anywhere, today they went 25 yards up the road and brought the city to a gridlock during a holiday period.
“I think everyone wanted to see how this one would go but now they are getting more together.
“I think there will be more drivers taking part.”
What's been the council's response?
Councillor Waseem Zaffar, transport and environment chief at Birmingham City Council, said: “I’m aware of the concerns of how the Clean Air Zone will affect Hackney carriage and private hire drivers.
“As I’ve said on many occasions, I totally understand that the introduction of the CAZ will have an impact on anyone driving a vehicle that does not meet modern emission standards, and I get the drivers’ concerns.
“My late father was a driver in Birmingham, I have a lot of family and friends who are drivers and I’ve in the past represented the taxi trade as a trade union official – I understand this will be challenging and that’s why we worked very hard to get £15m from Government to support drivers through the change.
“This money the city council has earmarked for Hackney carriage and private hire drivers is a huge 39 per cent of the £38m we are getting from the Government’s Clean Air Fund to support a package of mitigation measures to help businesses and individuals likely to be impacted.
“This is a really important message to get across as people need to know the facts of what we are doing. We also consulted with the general public and the taxi and private hire trade to prepare licensing policies in readiness for the Clean Air Zone and, as a result of feedback received from almost 1,400 individuals and organisations, made a number of changes to our proposals.”
Further protests are planned for today and Friday, and for every day next week.
Despite staging the first days of protests during rush hour, some future ones are planned to start at 3pm.
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