A member of City Hall’s security staff was reportedly knocked unconscious following a scuffle between staff, police and cab drivers as a protest broke out at this morning’s Mayor’s Question Time.
Hundreds of black cab drivers attended this morning’s meeting at which Mayor Boris Johnson was questioned by members of the London Assembly on a range of issues, including help for the trade to make the switch to cleaner vehicles.
A small number of those present repeatedly heckled the Mayor, prompting warnings from chair Tony Arbour that the meeting would be suspended and the public removed unless proceedings were allowed to continue uninterrupted.
However further unrest then broke out after the Mayor used the term “luddite” to describe elements of the trade.
The volume of shouting was so loud that AMs and the Mayor could not be heard, prompting Mr Arbour to suspend the meeting.
The chamber was abandoned after a number of protesters refused to leave the gallery and security were unable to guarantee the safety of the Mayor and Assembly members. The meeting was later reconvened in another part of the building.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police were called to back up City Hall’s security staff and escorted protestors from the building. As the meeting resumed, Assembly Members and the Mayor were told that a member of security staff was “knocked unconscious” and twenty additional staff left “bruised” by the resulting scuffles.
Labour Assembly leader Len Duvall said while politicians would always engage in “knockabout” with one another, they should think about the impact of their words when addressing and talking about others.
He told MayorWatch: “Whilst there is no excuse for the disruptive, and in some cases violent, actions of some in the audience the Mayor needs to understand that it was his name calling which in part sparked today’s incident. City Hall should be a forum for debate and discussion about the issues, not insults and mudslinging.
“I want to praise City Hall staff on the excellent job they did today controlling what was an incredibly high-pressure situation.”
Although London’s cabbies were enthusiastic backers of Mr Johnson’s 2008 Mayoral campaign his relationship with the trade has deteriorated in recent years.
Many members of the trade have grievances about the way Transport for London, which the Mayor chairs, regulates them and there’s widespread anger that TfL has allowed Uber to charge customers via an app which many believe breaks rules on the use of meters which can only be used by black cabs.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Arbour said: “Today’s disruption at Mayor’s Question Time was unnecessary and unfortunate.
“Several members of the City Hall security team were punched, pushed and verbally abused. One was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital. Our understanding is that his condition is now stable and we wish him well soon.
“As a result of interruptions from the public gallery, the democratic process was halted and the Mayor and Assembly Members were moved from the Chamber to continue business in another location. The Assembly is fully aware of the depth of feeling within the licenced taxi industry – but this kind of disruption is unhelpful to the fight for their livelihoods.
“The Transport Committee’s cross-party report into the taxi and private hire industries – ‘Future Proof’ made a number of recommendations to the Mayor and Transport for London and we look forward to their implementation.
“In the meantime, attending City Hall meetings to watch London government in action is encouraged – but verbal and physical attacks are not.”
Today’s behaviour was also criticised by a number of taxi drivers, including long-time campaigner Mark White who tweeted: “It’s one thing being angry, it’s another to undo over a year’s hard work by behaving like a hooligan!”