Google employee is latest target as anti-tech protests go beyond eye-rolling stage

Is the anti-tech worker sentiment nearing a boiling point? And are tech workers and companies responsible for the world’s ills? Protesters have now reportedly targeted an individual Google employee, not just the buses carrying workers like him. And whereas previous protests by other groups have addressed complaints such as gentrification in San Francisco, a flier accompanying the protest at the Google engineer’s Berkeley house is basically a diatribe against capitalism.

The protest in front of the Berkeley home of Anthony Levandowski came a couple of days ago, [New] the same day as another protest by a different group in San Francisco [End new] and as officials voted to impose fees ($1 for each stop by the shuttle buses) on the tech companies that shuttle their workers from the city to Silicon Valley campuses. As we wrote, that move did not exactly inspire the concerned parties to join hands and sing kumbaya. It was just a first step in what’s likely to be a continuing give-and-take among tech, city residents and politicians. Nobody’s under the illusion that shuttle fees will solve rising home prices or prevent evictions.

Yes, the new shuttle fees were a result of the public outcry and protests. But what about targeting individuals such as Levandowski — is this group of protesters going too far? Natasha Lennard writes for Salon that they’re following tactics that have been known to work: “Intimidation tactics targeting the employees of major corporations are nothing new and have a history of success: Indeed, animal rights activists achieved some major victories in securing the closure of animal testing facilities in the ’90s and early 2000s through the intimidation of key investors.”

A New Yorker profile last year of Levandowski, a key member of the Google team working on self-driving cars, mentioned that “he wants to fix the world and make a fortune doing it.” That’s something the protesters’ flier addresses: “Everything he is building will only help this disastrous economic system continue a bit longer.” The group also says Levandowski’s business dealings contributed and still contribute to the housing bubble. (Is it time for a new land-tax system thought of long ago?)

The “Counterforce” protesters’ other complaints against the tech industry mention the plight of workers in overseas factories that make tech gadgets; the technology that has enabled more surveillance than ever before; and Google’s ties to military contractors.

All this controversy couldn’t have come at a worse time for tech, which is also dealing with the effects of the revelations about NSA spying and the industry’s (willing or unwilling) role in it.

Josh Harkinson, writing for Mother Jones, says the recent protests on top of that could boost the backlash level. As Dan Nakaso wrote last month, at least one Google bus had its tires slashed and window smashed. Now, the Counterforce flier urges people to “Have courage. Find others who feel the same way and block a tech bus. Steal from the techies you babysit for. Take down surveillance cameras. Go hard: The time is now.”

That means this has gone past the stage where people roll their eyes at the quaint protesters. Google has reportedly hired security guards for its shuttles, and Brandon Bailey wrote that the company has also launched a private ferry service.

Could things get worse? Let’s go back to Lennard’s mention of the animal-rights activists’ protests against biotech companies: One of those activists, Daniel Andreas San Diego, is believed to have been responsible for the 2003 bombings of Chiron in Emeryville and Shaklee in Pleasanton. No one was injured, but San Diego remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list.


Photo: Members of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and other activists protest outside City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. The same day in Berkeley, a different group protested at a Google employee’s house. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)


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  • Michael Bender

    The protests are more about people realizing that they made bad choices by deciding to live off the public dole and not do anything remotely useful with their lives being envious about people that have worked hard and accomplished something other than a weekly “street theatre” performance about the evils of this and that.

    • janon

      The irony is for all of their faux outrage and BS Marxist rhetoric, the goal of their anti capitalist screed is to “take over” and control a city that would *never exist* without capitalism so they can exploit its benefits over pot and organic fruit while watching “street art”.

      Never mind who will repair it, clean it, keep it running, etc. Certainly not the ” warriors of social justice “. Their specialization is existential philosophy. Very highly valued skill in a socialist regime where everyone *must* pull equal weight. Lol

  • Michael Bender

    Oh, and perhaps a more saint point – all the protestors have no problems using the “evil hi-tech Internet” and cell phones and social media to organize and spread the word about how horrible the technology they they are using to spread the word about how horrible technology is really is. Including sitting in a self-driving car to get to the protest about self-driving cars.

    • DoobiePatterson

      Amen to that point. In fact I would say if they think they can be anti-Google and be smug using their iPhones they should really think twice; Apple is as Capitalistic as it gets.

  • Paul I

    Idiocracy coming to cities near you

  • laura

    I appreciate costs are high – they are everywhere in this area – but people are going to live where they want to live. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 19 years, and there have ALWAYS been
    people commuting from SF down south for their employment….why do you
    think traffic is so congested on 101 and 280 heading south in the a.m.
    and north in the p.m.? I live in San Jose and commute to Mountain View
    (not Google) for work. As a commuter, I am very appreciative of the
    Google buses that come through my neighborhood and pick up
    Googlers….and take their cars off the roads I have to
    drive….especially on “spare the air days”.

    I’d be appreciative of the efforts that companies take to be better neighbors (e.g., take cars of the road), what happens if all those employees start to drive to work?

    • Malby

      Lord, don’t be all logical. You corporate tool. :)

  • Gemini210

    They are way over the top now. Talk about alienating those most likely to support you. Sure, there are downsides to “gentrification”, but lots of upsides, too. Look at the reduction of crime where this has happened in NYC. The main thing is the city needs to put in place policies that address affordable housing, and raising the minimum wage. The people creating a better future at places like Google are NOT the enemy. The useless financial engineers that created the Great Recession are. The plutocrats trying to hijack the political system via Citizens United are. The fossil fuel flim-flammers ruining your air, water, and driving prices of everything up through manipulation of fuel prices are. The corrupt politicians and lobbyists gerrymandering the system for their benefit and the benefit of the corporatocracy are. Leave the engineers working hard to create something alone, they are your likeliest friends, not the enemy!

    • User

      I only engineered the Nuclear bomb I didn’t drop it. I just engineered the the gun I never shot anybody.

      What happened to responsibility and accountability Gemini?

      Engineers are just as guilty as the guilty parties you mentioned. By giving the technology to advance the plutocrats and corporatocracies and politicians agendas.

      • Gemini210

        Just as guilty? Sheer nonsense. By your logic, if I designed a gun, and some idiot/maniac killed someone with it, I am just as guilty as them. Not true. Not by any generally accepted standard of law, ethics, or morality, and certainly not by mine. I’m not going to get in an argument with someone so poorly armed for it as you. But for the benefit of other readers, I will point out that holding the creators of technology responsible for every misuse of it, by your standard, in history, would have left us in caves or possibly trees. Almost every technology developed since we came down out of the trees has had the potential to be used for evil or immoral purpose, or for good. I happen to believe that we are better off, on balance, because of technology. One has to have responsibility for one’s own acts or deeds or choices to use any technology, not for simply creating something that has the potential for misuse. The very self-same technology you used to express your incorrect opinion to a wide audience, anonymously I might add, in the form of ubiquitous computing and telecommunications power enabling the Internet, can and has been used for nefarious purpose. Perhaps the engineers who enabled this should be held accountable and responsible? Ridiculous. User, indeed! How responsible and accountable are you???

      • Malby

        BWAAAHAHAH. Making up reason to resent people with good educations and better jobs than you. I assume that YOU do not polllute yourself using any of the tech you deride. Or is it OK because you’re hip?

      • tmitsss

        I just stoke the fires of Moloch

  • John Forster

    I don’t think any of your arguments will sway any of the protesters… they want SF for themselves, and not have their hip hangouts polluted by uncool nerds (and yes, that is what we are, no matter how hard you protest).
    Try this argument instead:
    For as long as people can remember, rich people have lived in S.F. Why is it that you are protesting about them now?
    Is it because you can deal with the existence of rich lawyers and bankers, but somehow the concept of a rich nerd/geek is offensive to you? Or is it because as long long as the rich yuppies confined themselves to Pac Heights and the Marina you didn’t care about them, e.g. out of sight, out of mind? But now that the nerds and geeks are living next door to your in the Mission and Soma, Hayes Valley, etc, you simply cannot ignore them anymore?
    If you still can’t get your point across, simply tell the protesters they are so passe. You were a member of the “Mission Yuppie Eradication Project” when those protesters were still in grade school.

  • Ron Lambkin

    Singing kumbaya never built a campfire.

  • sociopathic

    Do these people for (D)? Curious as it seems that folks like Diane Feinstein get readily elected in places like SF.

  • jnffarrell1

    Some stooge will believe he’s part of a movement and will do something horrific and end up camping out in the woods where he will draw unwanted attention to the economic activity therein.

  • Malby

    “Now, the Counterforce flier urges people to “Have courage. Find
    others who feel the same way and block a tech bus. Steal from
    the techies you babysit for. Take down surveillance cameras. Go hard:
    The time is now.”

    Ah, come on–the “Counterforce”? Is that what you call spoiled millenials who thought they could study pottery and Gender Politics and still afford living in San Francisco? The notion that there’s anything here but plain jealousy of the people who worked hard and got good jobs in tech is pure fantasy. As is the idea that this particular group of renters has the right to stay in San Francisco despite a surge in demand for housing and predictable increased rents is bizarre. People have moved in and out of San Francisco for more than a century and as housing stock deteriorated and prices rose and dropped (actually, pretty much always rose, because so many people want to live there).

    But somehow, THIS generation gets to stay, no matter what. And they have nothing to do with their time so feel free to go around interfering with actual working people.
    #pretentious #deluded #self-absorbed #fauxintellectuals

    • DaL33T

      I never had any real support for this movement. Now, consider myself opposed.

    • Robespierre92

      Yet another “get off my lawn” comment. Guarantee that if this was 1775 you would have been espousing your loyalty to the British crown and call the revolutionaries, “pretentious and deluded”.

      • Malby

        Good grief. You provide solid evidence for the “pretentious and deluded” label–you consider this media-supported blip equivalent to the American Revolution? Hysterical. And what is a “get off my lawn” comment, exactly?

        • Robespierre92

          When you start pointing your finger at “this generation”, or blowing this off as “envy”, or “entitlement” it’s a “get off my lawn” comment. And by taking the side of power, capital, and profit, over people you are by default a monarchist.

          • janon

            And when you paint normal working people as cartoon villains and speak in pure superlatives you’re a delusional psychopath

  • DoobiePatterson

    This is why the Republican Party and Conservatives will get a second chance at life; Left Wing Extremists are the best marketing tool to move away from Liberalism and the Democratic Party. It happened in the late 60s. Left Wing politics of that era brought about the heyday for Republican Conservatives. These Communist Protesters are the Black Panther, SLA, Manson Followers of our time.

    • Robespierre92

      It happened in the late 60s. Left Wing politics of that era brought about the heyday for Republican Conservatives

      Which made conservatives take their eye off the ball, and the left entrenched themselves in education, hollywood, tech, and news media, and now run the country.

  • DaL33T

    I don’t like Google. I don’t like that they spy on us 24/7, I don’t like their faux-saintly facade, I don’t like the idea of spy-goggles or job-stealing, self-driving cars, I don’t like the company one bit.

    But my enmity for Google does NOT extend to the people working for them. I have a cousin who works out west for them (I live on the east coast), and given the recent news, I hope and pray he doesn’t get hurt in the next few weeks.

    We shouldn’t be taking our anger out on people who merely work for Google. We shouldn’t be accusing them of some madman’s conspiracy. What started out with good intentions, has now become irrational and out of control. I actually fear physical violence should this escalate any further.

    These Googlers at the lower level are POSSIBLY the source of gentrification, POSSIBLY. But if they are, it’s something that they have done UNWITTINGLY. They didn’t move to SF with the intent of jacking up the rent. We shouldn’t be venting our rage on them, ESPECIALLY when they mean no harm.

    Lord knows there’s got to be a better way to handle this, I know it. I don’t know what that way is, but I know it’s out there. This madness has gone too far.

    • Ying

      Amen. I mean what other choices do we have? Live 200 km away and fly to work? None of this is done on purpose. Heck, I wish the rent was lower too, I don’t want to pay 5000k for my 2 bedroom. I have to share with another Googler so we actually have money left outside of rent.

  • DoobiePatterson

    So for years these Geeks and Nerds were picked on by society because they couldn’t use muscle to get ahead; so they finally had to use their brains and skills to win. Now these Leftist Bullies want to use force to wrestle power back from them using the age old tactics of brute force. Yes I said it Leftist Bullies. Because historically when the Leftist don’t feel like the rules allow them to win they resort to terrorism and fear to get what they want.

    • DaL33T

      For the record, I’M a leftist. I hate these morons too.

      • DoobiePatterson

        I respect that DaL33T but I will have to tell you there is something within the Leftist “Justice” driven thought process that drives this stupidity. I would even agree it is not much different than Right Wing Extremist who see themselves as on the fringe and also treated indifferently by society. The big difference is Left Wing social disobedience and violence is driven by the hypocrisy of this notion that it’s about peace and love. Ask a Muslim terrorist they will never admit they are hateful people; they will always try to sell you on the notion they are doing this for the people and the ideas they love.

        • DaL33T

          I respect your viewpoint, and agree: leftist nuts are the worst nuts!

      • tmitsss

        “La République n’a pas besoin de savants ni de chimistes ; le cours de la justice ne peut être suspendu.” (“The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed.

        • Malby

          Uh, what?

          Are you attempting to compare the hissy-fit of underemployed hipsters to the French Revolution? Check back in 6 months and tell me what you’ve accomplished.

  • mikegre

    I suggest the formation of a Counter-Counter Force. The first people the “CCF” should confront should be teachers who indoctrinate these kids in leftist ideas.

  • wm13

    It seems to me the protests are mostly about the self-righteous tech geniuses thinking that all the world’s problems were caused by Republican yahoos in flyover country, and using their campaign contributions to create a single-party Democratic enclave in California. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. I hope every google bus and every google employee is driven out of San Francisco.

    • Ying

      All idiots make claims like this… When we move out you know what happens? THE ECONOMY CRASHES. You need us more than we need you. What not just move like 50 km out of the city or something? Housing are very affordable.

  • Donald Campbell

    Levandowski wants to fix the world and make a fortune doing it… That is bad? How?

    He could make his fortune like George Sorros, stealing the pensions of little old ladies in England via currency speculation. He could make his fortune like Al Gore, hyping the pseudo-science of ‘carbon offsets’ for fun and profit. (Planting a tree will consume co2, until 20-30 years along, the tree dies, then releasing the co2). He could make his fortune like Obama, who has never worked an honest day in his life.

    I figure that if he fixes the world, he *deserves* to make a fortune doing it. Look at all the money we have squandered on Nancy Pelosi and what a great job of ‘fixing the world’ she is doing.

  • 500_lb_Gorrila

    As an libertarian, and strong supporter of truly free market capitalism and democracy, I’d usually support a company which is being harassed by the radical left, but… Google is evil and has been a supporter of the radical left, and most of its employees are far leftists, although hypocrites to be sure, as 99% of the left are hypocrites. Therefore I hope both sides in this lose.

  • David Gillies

    It would be interesting and instructive to see a breakdown of the protesters’ educational qualifications and employment (if any). I would give good odds that they tend heavily towards the parasitical and vapid (e.g. x Studies, where x in {Gender, Queer, Peace, …}) and the unproductive (e.g. ‘non-profit’ organisations). I suppose there is some vestigial hope that this will demonstrate to the tech people the consequences of the politics of envy they mostly espouse, but I doubt it.

    • Ying

      Agreed. You make bad choices in life that led you to where you are now, so why are you bother other people for having the success that you lack? These people need to just chill out.

  • Terenc Blakely

    It would be amusing if Google and other hi-tech California companies leave for more business friendly red states. It’s not like they are saddled with huge expensive to move factories.

    • Ying

      And what leave SF to the homeless? We are the backbone of SF economy. There are very affordable housing outside the city. There are places with 200k – 300k houses !!!

      It’s not my fault that you can afford houses. Targeting individual Google employees is just stupid. What did we do other than get a nice paying job? What don’t you target some CEOs, they get paid about 5-10 times as much as we do…

  • jmatt55

    Quick, somebody say something about how Republicans and the Tea Party don’t believe in science.

  • Cromulent

    Gosh, I can’t stand these idiotic Tea Party protestors. They’ve simply gone too far.

    Oh wait.

  • Cromulent

    Gosh, I can’t stand these idiotic Tea Party protestors. They’ve simply gone too far.

    Oh wait.

  • UnconcernedCitizen2

    Inspired by the leader of global Marxism, Barack H. Obama, San Francisco Marxists are lashing out at anyone they think they can hurt. It’s pathetic and it’s sad to see how far the Left has fallen in this country. In the 1990s, the Left kept to themselves and mostly did not do much, which allowed the economy to grow and human civilization to progress. Now, Leftists are not so docile. Time for citizens to get armed and engage these enemy combatants directly.

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