One of the perks of working at a major Silicon Valley company is a shuttle ride to work. But as housing prices rise in the San Francisco Bay Area, angry activists are targeting those shuttles to protest the region's gentrification. In Oakland, protesters attacked a Google bus today, smashing a window and distributing fliers reading "Get the fuck out of Oakland" to Google employees on board.
My Gbus got hit by protesters in Oakland and they broke a window. pic.twitter.com/VGCyhBLgyd— Craig Frost (@craigsfrost) December 20, 2013
And in San Francisco, demonstrators blocked an Apple bus, holding signs and even carrying a wooden coffin bearing the message "Affordable housing."
"We want the ruling class, which is becoming the tech class, to listen to our voices and listen to the voices of folks that are being displaced," said one SF protester.
The message in Oakland wasn't nearly as gentle. "While you guys live fat as hogs with your free 24/7 buffets, everyone else is scraping the bottom of their wallets, barely existing in this expensive world that you and your chums have helped create," reads part of the message handed to Google employees.
The Google bus is a symbol of inequality
These aren't isolated incidents. Just last week, some of the same San Francisco activists protested another tech industry bus at the same street corner, though an alleged Google employee at that rally turned out to be a fake. A small group of protesters also smashed a Google bus pinata back in May.
Though protesters do take issue with the buses directly because they use the city's bus stops without paying for the privilege, they're mostly seen as a prominent symbol of growing inequality in the Bay. Today's protests centered on low-income tenants evicted from their homes as a result of the area's housing situation, a situation some blame on the high-income individuals employed by tech companies — who have been bidding up housing prices in the area.
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee disagrees that the tech industry is the problem. "People, stop blaming tech, tech companies. They want to work on a solution," he told the San Francisco Bay Guardian earlier this week. "I think it's unfortunate that some voices want to pit one economic sector they view as successful against the rest of our challenge. The reality is they're only eight percent of our economy."
Catherine Bracy gave a speech at the Personal Democracy Forum that does a good job of explaining the current economic inequality in Silicon Valley, and some reasons why the Google bus might inspire a certain degree of hatred. You can watch it below.