Quoted: on the Google bus protest and 'political theater'

“We didn’t know that was going to happen and it’s too bad because the point was really to connect the housing crisis to the tech industry.”

Deepa Varma, a lawyer with Eviction Free San Francisco and an organizer of the protest against gentrification that blocked a bus carrying Google employees for about half an hour Monday. A man who appeared to be a Google worker got in a shouting match with a protester, saying “this is a city for the right people who can afford it.” A video of the exchange was posted on YouTube. Alas, the man, Max Bell Alper, is actually a union organizer who said his “outburst” — which he called “political theater” — was not planned but that he wanted to make a point. “It’s a big problem when people every day are being evicted and losing their homes in San Francisco,” he reportedly said.

As we’ve written, the tech boom in San Francisco has sparked complaints about residents being displaced and concerns that the tech workers don’t care about the city. Protesters showed up at Twitter headquarters when the company had its IPO recently. In addition, the growing number of buses that shuttle San Francisco-based tech workers to their offices in Silicon Valley has become a problem as they share stops with city buses, and the city’s Muni bus authority has proposed creating stops where Muni buses and the private buses can co-exist without disrupting traffic. Muni wants to charge Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other companies for the maintenance of such a system.

Did Alper hurt the protesters’ cause, as some say? “The more we talk about it, the more we think about it, the more we’re going to see the tech companies need to contribute,” he told the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which first reported on the exchange.


Photo:  One of the complaints about the tech boom in San Francisco involves the traffic disruptions that have arisen because private buses that shuttle tech workers in and out of the city are now “sharing” city bus stops.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (3569 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also blogs and is the online producer for SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay (at) bayareanewsgroup (dot-com).