Grab driver demo in Jakarta escalates, police reportedly used tear gas

Another day, another protest.

The featured image appears to show the scene from inside the Lippo building. It was shared less than an hour ago on Twitter. 

A protest held by Grab drivers earlier today in Jakarta required police to use tear gas to disperse the crowd, as it was blocking traffic on a major artery in Jakarta, according to reports from the scene on social media. Videos showed a cloud of smoke and some people said they had heard explosions.

According to eyewitnesses, Grab drivers were forcing passengers out of their cars and onto the street.

If you are travelling to Rasuna Said, don’t use Grab guys, all will be stopped in a barbaric way by drivers who are participating in the protest. 

Responding to our request for comment, Grab has confirmed that there was such an incident. It says a small group of disgruntled ex-drivers were the instigators of the protest and aggression.

A spokesperson said:

We do not condone any violent acts and are providing full support to the authorities to immediately calm down and dissipate the group of protesters. There has been a small group of former drivers who have tried to organise protests in recent months, because they were suspended from the Grab platform for committing fraud, such as creating fake rides.

Grab takes a very firm stance that we will not tolerate criminal activities on our platform, and are heartened that our customers and many of our driver-partners are supportive of Grab’s decision to remove dishonest drivers from the Grab platform. Our first priority is to make sure that our passengers and drivers feel safe, and that we stand behind our hardworking driver-partners who work fairly. Grab will ensure their incomes are not affected by the acts of this small group of unscrupulous former drivers.

We believe in creating opportunities for all Indonesians and would like to emphasise that many of the protesters, who are demanding for their suspension to be lifted, had previously received amnesty for similar fraud acts since 2017. It is unfortunate that they repeated the fraudulent activities, which resulted in their suspension. We urge the protesters not to endanger passengers and the public in general, minimise disruption to the wider community, and move forward to finding new opportunities to earn an honest living.

Grab Indonesia’s official Twitter account has not commented on the situation so far.

Grab, like rival ride-hailing firm Go-Jek, faces a big challenge when it comes to detecting and dealing with drivers who meddle with their apps to get more rides or bonus payments.

Starting at noon, the protest took place in front of an office tower of Lippo Group, where Grab’s Indonesian headquarter is registered. Lippo Group is an investor in Grab.

Issues brought up by drivers in Grab’s ride-hailing network typically include demands for higher tariffs and more transparency around account suspension.

Grab has said it has 2.6 million drivers in its network across Southeast Asia, without specifying how many of those are in Indonesia. It has said that Indonesia is its biggest market and claims 65% share of the ride-hailing market in the country. The firm recently launched a safety initiative in an aim to raise its transport safety standards in the region.

Today’s incident is the most recent of many such driver protests. Grab drivers organized a similar protest just a little over one month ago. Go-Jek drivers have also staged several mass rallies to demand higher tariffs.

Editor: Ben Jiang

Update 8pm: Grab’s statement was added to the story.