Posted on June 11, 2008

Race Tension Behind Taxi Brawl at Airport, Say Drivers

Herald-Sun (Melbourne), June 06, 2008

RACIAL tension may have been behind a brawl this week when taxi drivers turned on each other outside a Tullamarine cafe.

Up to 30 drivers, some brandishing weapons, spilled onto Melrose Drive from the Melrose Lounge, a witness said.

A 25-year-old man was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with a cut above his eye, bruising and swelling.

It was initially suggested the fight was between Sudanese and Indian drivers.

However, other witnesses said the fight began between a Somalian driver and an Indian driver before mushrooming into a brawl between Indians and drivers from various African nations.

A leader in the recent taxi protests in Melbourne’s CBD told 3AW the fight was sparked when an Indian driver tried to skip the queue.

“The Indian driver tried to jump the queue, and one of the Somalian drivers said, ‘You can’t jump the queue, you have to do the right thing, this is wrong’, and they started fighting.”

Other taxi drivers and airport staff claimed racial tensions were often evident at the airport rank, with queue-jumping enough to spark mass arguments and violence.

Taxi driver Nabjot Gall said the fight broke out just before 8pm Wednesday.

Drivers used carjacks as weapons and one man was smashed in the face, he said.

“The fight went on and got bigger and bigger,” he said.

An Australia Federal Police officer confirmed members attended a “minor” incident at the cafe, but refused to comment further.