A Coventry taxi driver was racially abused and battered with a metal bar last Saturday. Some 600 Coventry taxi drivers went on strike in response last weekend.
Around 200 drivers from taxi firms across the city held a protest outside Little Park Street police station on Monday.
The impromptu strike was sparked by an incident at 2am last Saturday morning when cab driver Balwinder Mattu, was flagged down by a couple outside the Dogma bar in Fairfax Street, Coventry.
Mattu says the pair, who were both drunk, began racially abusing him.
And when he stopped to let the woman get money from a cashpoint, the man she was with attacked him.
The attacker, who Mattu says produced a metal bar, broke the Perspex screen which separates drivers from passengers, and began to beat the back of Mattu’s head. Balwinder Mattu’s attacker was eventually restrained by another taxi driver.
Recalling how the incident started, Mattu said, “They asked me whether I was an Indian or a Paki but I joked and said I’m a Coventry kid and I’ve been living here for 30 years.
“Then they started singing racist songs.
“The girl got out to use the cashpoint and I politely asked the man to get out and not bother about paying the fare, but he started calling me names.
“I have been driving for 20 years now and if I told you about everything that’s happened I could write a book, especially about what went on at weekends.”
Police officers arrived on the scene and arrested Mattu’s attackers.
But Coventry cab drivers are angry that the colleague they claim helped save Balwinder Mattu from more serious injuries was also arrested on suspicion of assault.
As news of the incident spread among taxi drivers they converged on the Little Park Street police station – where the second cab driver was being held.
Speaking on Saturday to the Coventry Telegraph, Imran Jamal of Foleshill said, “We have been here all night and we will stay here until the taxi driver who was arrested is let out.
“We want to get the message across that we get trouble at least once a night and the police never help us.
“If a bus driver was attacked they would arrive quickly, but it doesn’t seem to matter when it’s a taxi driver and in the end it costs us money.”
Majid Hussain added, “For too long the police have treated us like second class citizens.
“Our voice has never been heard before and we are not going to stop the strike until he is released.”
The taxi driver who tried to restrain Mattu’s attacker was released later on Saturday,
but not before fellow taxi drivers agreed to continue their walkout for the rest of the weekend.
Alias Yousef, secretary of the Coventry Taxi Association, said that over 600 members had been on strike.
Geoff Williams, chair of the association, said over the weekend drivers continued to carry disabled and blind passengers, but refused to carry anyone else.
The drivers are considering further action.