This Anti-Google Protest Didn't Go Quite as Planned

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 9 2013 4:34 PM

Protesters Surround Google Bus in San Francisco. Obnoxiousness Ensues.

Google bus anti-eviction protest
Activists blocked a Googe shuttle at a bus stop in the Mission District, but their efforts may have backfired.

Screenshot / YouTube

This morning in San Francisco, anti-eviction protesters surrounded one of the private buses that Google uses to shuttle its San Francisco-based employees to the company's headquarters in Mountain View every day. The protest was part of a large and growing backlash against the city's "techies," who are accused by various parties of ruining the city's freewheeling culture, driving up local rents, gentrifying diverse neighborhoods, undermining public infrastructure, and generally being lame. The San Francisco Chronicle's Ellen Huet reports:

A group of protesters surrounded and blocked a Google employee commuter bus for more than a half hour Monday morning at a Muni bus stop at 24th and Valencia streets in San Francisco’s Mission District. The buses have, for some, become a symbol of tech-fueled gentrification, economic inequality and soaring housing prices in the city. The bus, which was headed to Google’s Mountain View campus, had riders on board. A dozen protesters stood around the bus with signs saying “Public $$$$, Private Gains,” “Stop Displacement Now,” “Fine $271, Total Fine $1 Billion,” and “Warning: Two-Tier System.”

Huet posted pictures of the protest on Twitter:


San Francisco police told Huet the protest lasted half an hour and ended at around 9:50 a.m. Presumably, the bus went on its way.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

But the fallout continued. This afternoon, the Bay Guardian posted on its website a video of an alleged Google employee shouting down the protesters in the most obnoxious possible way. “This is a city for the right people who can afford it,” the bearded, hipster-glasses-wearing guy screeched. “You can’t afford it? You can leave. I’m sorry, get a better job.”

The video (embedded below) quickly went viral, so much so that it appeared to have taken down the Bay Guardian website for a time. Several other outlets ran with it, including ValleyWag’s scourge of the techies, Sam Biddle, who opined that the Google employee in question “personifies almost every single thing worth protesting.”

One problem: As some quickly suspected, including New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose, it now appears the guy wasn’t a real Google employee. Instead, Fitzgerald Rodriguez reports in an update to his story, he was a union organizer posing as a Google employee in order to make Google employees look bad. Suffice it to say that, whatever you think of Google employees and their impact on the San Francisco housing market, they were not the ones who came out of this particular exchange looking bad.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.


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