‘We are scared’: London drivers deliver a protest against acid attacks to UK parliament
London delivery drivers led by Jabed Hussain, who was the victim of an acid attack last week, have held a noisy protest outside the UK parliament demanding protection from violence.
Hundreds of motorcycle and moped riders, who say they fear for their safety while working, brought traffic around Parliament Square to a standstill with their vehicles on Tuesday.
They say the attack on Hussain, who had his scooter stolen in one of five alleged acid-throwing incidents in east London on Thursday night, reflects an environment in which they and their vehicles are constantly targeted.
“We are scared. [The] government’s not taking enough action, [the] government’s not providing enough police,” said Hussain, who organised the demonstration. “I am a victim of an acid attack, I don’t want anyone else to experience the feeling of it. I felt fire on my face [...] Who is going to give us our dignity? I want to ask the prime minister, who is sleeping [on the job] right now.”
Hussain said many delivery drivers were refusing to work after 8pm because they did not feel safe and many were considering leaving the job even if they had to “live on the streets”. He promised more demonstrations if drivers were not listened to. “This has happened so many times, that’s why all the drivers are angry.” he said.
Delivery drivers, some wearing the distinctive liveries of their employers, tooted their horns, revved their engines, and chanted: “No more acid attacks.” They blocked off the north side of Parliament Square with their vehicles and marched around the square holding a large banner, which read: “Stop acid attacks, bike theft, motorcycle crime.”
Wellington Silveira, 33, originally from Brazil, said he had been in London working as a delivery driver for about 10 years, but that things had deteriorated to the extent that he was thinking of moving out of the city.
“I work in Islington, north London,” said Silveira, who works for UberEats and Deliveroo. “All day I have these problems; people trying to steal my bike. It’s not safe. I stop work at 10pm because it’s too dangerous.”
Bilal Zari, 32, said: “It’s about us being able to provide a service to people and put food on the table for our family. We are hard-working people.”
Zari said he had been threatened with reduced hours if he attended the demonstration, but had gone along anyway. “I am a father, I have two kids, [aged] two and three: that’s more important,” he said.
While Hussain said he was not blaming the police, both Silveira and Zari demanded tougher action by officers.
Hussain, an UberEats delivery driver, was on his moped at the corner of Queensbridge Road and Hackney Road when two men on a moped pulled up alongside him and threw acid on him.
It was the first of five acid attacks to take place in a three-mile radius. He believes his helmet saved him from more serious injuries but one of the alleged victims could lose sight in one eye.
Will Shu, chief executive of Deliveroo, sent an email to his drivers on Tuesday pledging to protect them. He said a contact line has been set up for them to report concerns and no driver would have to work in an area where they felt unsafe.
A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named because of his age, appeared in a youth court in east London on Monday accused of carrying out attacks on six victims on 13 July. He denies charges including wounding, robbery and possession of a weapon.