Taxi drivers protesting against Uber and other ride-hailing services clashed with the police in Madrid on Wednesday, cutting off a highway that rings the capital and picketing the opening of an international tourism fair.
The capital’s taxi drivers are in the third day of an indefinite strike, and intensified their protests in response to an apparent victory for their counterparts in Barcelona, who began striking on Friday. The regional government there said late Tuesday that it would ban ride-hailing companies from carrying passengers who booked less than an hour in advance, a proposal that has left Uber and others threatening to suspend services.
By noon, the authorities in Madrid said that 11 people had been injured in clashes in the capital on Wednesday, including five police officers.
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia were ushered into the opening of Madrid’s annual tourism fair though a side entrance under heavy escort, as police officers charged against drivers who burned tires and containers to block road access.
Outside, some protesters urged the queen, a former television presenter, to support them, shouting, “Letizia, your granddad was a taxi driver!”The confrontations reflect not only labor tensions caused by the growth of ride-hailing and other gig economy businesses but also a wider wave of popular anger in Europe: Many of the striking drivers wore yellow vests, echoing recent protests in France and elsewhere.
In recent days, some of the taxi protests have turned violent in Barcelona, where a few drivers have attacked and damaged vehicles operated by Uber and its main Spanish rival, Cabify. In Madrid, one taxi driver was hospitalized after a ride-hailing vehicle drove into him.
At Madrid’s airport on Wednesday morning, some visitors were unpleasantly surprised to find the taxi stand filled with locked, empty vehicles, while striking drivers and airport workers instructed them to go back inside the terminal and join the lines at its subway ticket machines.
“I expected the flight to be tiring, but not the trip from the airport to downtown,” said Jack Miller, who was visiting from Los Angeles. “It’s not the best start, but it shouldn’t be enough to ruin my stay.”
The course of the various strikes was complicated by conflicting official responses, with regional and national politicians accusing each other of intensifying the problem.
Taxi drivers also paralyzed traffic in Madrid last summer, and the incoming Socialist national government promised new legislation on ride hailing. But the outcome was a government decree, adopted in September, that allowed Uber and others to continue operating within cities at least until 2022, but asking regional politicians to set the exact rules under which they would cohabit with taxis.
In Barcelona on Wednesday, unions representing drivers were split on whether to accept the Catalan regional government’s one-hour delay proposal for ride-hailing pickups — increased from an initial offer of 15 minutes — and call off their strike.
In Madrid, the president of the regional government is a conservative, Ángel Garrido, who on Wednesday accused the Catalan authorities of returning their region “to the Middle Ages” by making inappropriate concessions.
“What Catalonia is doing with this seems to me exactly the opposite of what should be done,” Mr. Garrido told reporters. “Madrid will maintain its image of freedom and respect for competition, because that is also how citizens want it to be.”
He also called on Madrid’s far-left mayor, Manuela Carmena, to step into the dispute, while blaming the Socialist government for staying on the sidelines after handing over “this hot potato” last September.
Juan Galiardo, the director of Uber in Spain, told Spanish news media that about 3,000 of its drivers in Barcelona risked losing their jobs, and that his company would instead focus on other cities more favorable to its offering.
If Barcelona implements the one-hour booking rule, “we will have no other alternative than to suspend our services,” Mr. Galiardo said. “It makes our product completely unviable.”