San Francisco's guerrilla protest at Google buses swells into revolt

From The Guardian

Google's corporate mantra may be to do no evil, but to a determined band of activists in San Francisco the company could just be the devil incarnate.

Corporate buses that Google and other tech companies lay on to ferry their workers from the city to Silicon Valley, 30 or 40 miles to the south, are being targeted by an increasingly assertive guerrilla campaign of disruption. Over the last two months, a groundswell of discontent over the privatisation of the Bay Area's transport system has erupted into open revolt.

Well organised protesters have blocked buses, unfurled banners and distributed flyers to tech commuters who have seemed either nonplussed, embarrassed or downright terrified. And this could be just the beginning.

"We're in the planning process for the next protest," one of the organisers, Erin McElroy, told the Observer. "We're trying to stay creative with each one, not just repeat over and over."

Just before Christmas, a window was smashed on a Google bus in Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay. Last week, protesters doorstepped a Google engineer who they claimed was involved in working with the government to develop eavesdropping techniques and "war robots" for the military. "Anthony Levandowski is building an unconscionable world of surveillance, control and automation," they wrote on flyers left near his house. "He is also your neighbour."

Corporate security guards have started to make a discreet appearance as the protests escalate. The core grievance is one keenly felt by almost everyone in San Francisco: the way the tech sector has pushed up housing prices in the city and made it all but unaffordable for anyone without a six-figure salary. Almost no San Francisco police officers live in the city any more, and neither do most restaurant workers or healthcare workers. The funky, family-owned shops that once defined the city are closing because owners cannot afford the business rent, never mind the rent on their housing.

The activists claim that the so-called "Google buses" are exacerbating the problem, because they are making it easier for tech workers who might otherwise live closer to their offices to live in San Francisco instead.

In a metropolitan area known for its flamboyant political theatre, its anarchist streak and a tendency for liberals to turn on each other as much as their political enemies, the point has not always been made with the greatest subtlety.

"You are not innocent victims," one flyer directed at tech workers said. "You live your comfortable lives surrounded by poverty, homelessness and death, seemingly oblivious to everything around you, lost in the big bucks and success."

Already, splits are appearing in the protest movement. McElroy is part of a campaign championing affordable housing and fighting against a sharp rise in evictions. She does not condone the window-breaking, the attack on Levandowski, or the aggressive flyers. She also said she wanted the tech workers themselves to join the protests. That was in contrast to an anarchist commentator, The Counterforce, who wrote: "All of Google's employees should be prevented from getting to work."

Still, the protests have the attention of the city authorities. The public transport agency, which had previously allowed the Silicon Valley firms to operate their buses free of charge, agreed last week to introduce a tariff for use of city streets and city bus stops. It was, however, a notably modest tariff: just $1 per bus per bus stop. City officials said their hands were tied by rules preventing them from levying a more significant fee without a public vote endorsing a move. But that did not begin to satisfy the protesters, who heckled as two tech workers addressed a heavily attended public meeting and said they were looking for a much more comprehensive response.

"One dollar per bus stop is not in any way a remedy and does not mitigate the damage," McRory said.

Google argues that the protesters are gunning for the wrong target, because the buses alleviated traffic and pollution and because most of the employees who take the bus would live in San Francisco anyway.

Those claims were challenged by a study published last week by researchers at Berkeley, across the Bay from San Francisco. They found that rents around the stops used by the Google buses were up to 20% higher than in otherwise comparable areas. They also found that 30-40% of tech workers would in fact move closer to their jobs if the bus service did not exist.

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Comments

ANTI-GOOGLE BUS GUERRILLA

Who is Erin McElroy?

Erin McElroy=
Peace, Son of The Red-Haired Youth.

or alternately,
Peace, Son on The King

Erin=Peace, Mcelroy=Son of The Red-Haired Youth, Mc=Son of, Elroy=The King

Ahhh, the collision of myopic reformism and liberal radicalism. Now this stuff makes more sense.

The activists say "if we just convince everybody ..."
The fringe radicals say "that's not working, maybe if we're angrier?!"

Both groups make salient points about the cost of housing, class and (in this case) the technocracy BUT
Still just PRAXIS FAIL …

Know how I know? Because I made the same mistakes a decade ago.

Hint: focusing too much on a few heads of the hydra

Do you realize you're saying "praxis fail" in response to an article on The Guardian covering those actions?

Thing is... what have YOU got to suggest as a praxis? A big ZERO... NOTHING!

That is the failed praxis... sitting down in front of a screen and bullshit on others who actually managed, with small numbers they had, to block the flow of highly-valued, high-tech labor.

Yes, I realize that. I posted similar things in the other posts about this action.
As for "So what's your idea?!" … why would I float an entire theory of direct action here?
It'd be a wall of text that nobody would read.
But like I said elsewhere, holy crap you kids think your dinky little action mattered.

It's pretty funny for awhile and then it's sad.

You're sad just because you're a sad old fuck, that's all. Probably a cop too, but that's not out problem, but yours.

I'm 30 and I've been accused of being a cop by a lot of naive kids …

"Do you realize you're saying "praxis fail" in response to an article on The Guardian covering those actions?"

Not trying to be an ass for pointing out the obvious, but your comment reinforces what they said.

Also again not trying to be an ass, but the guardian did manage to formulate a more convincing argument against google in the ba,y than some of the crazy shit you all been talkin' about.

Like I said, not trying to be an ass, but maybe if you ditched the death to nerd jargon and your struggle against buses is a struggle against the technology infrastructure (I mean come on now, really?)...ect. ect., people may start to take you more seriously.

"We want to stop google's ferrying of workers to and from the city because it will have a direct material effect against capitalism, i.e. the reduction in cost of living and the slowing of gentrification."

See now I know that that is not as cool, but that's something I as a troll can get behind and other people as well. All the other jargon you throw in to try and create yet another radical niche' "analysis" just falls flat, and makes you seem like jaded/wingnutty kids.

Not trying to be an ass, I'm just sayin'.

Who is "you" and where did I promoted actions against Google BUSES? This is lame and stupid. The communiques written by at least some of these people were making it clear it wasn't just about stupid buses, and not even about Google uniquely, through Google is the first suspect in the Bay. That this was about the continuous UNDISRUPTED ferrying of workers from within SF to suburban Silicon Valley.

clearly then it is up to anarchists to control which workers go from where, to where

Oh stfu, foo'... Come back to this website in a few years when you finally understand what this struggle is about.

Or read the communiques.

Ha, the person that's shitting on these actions is way too transparent, it's almost as if they have a personal stake in seeing it fail. This campaign may not lead to the rev, but it's done a good job at increasing antagonism towards gentrifying yuppy fucks.

What's a yuppy?

youre mom LOL

what's a what?

A yuppy is just mirror in which anarchists and other liberals project everything they dislike. Instead of having an actual analysis of class society, they instead resort to populist sloganeering and infantile name calling. "Yuppie" is the "99% vs. 1%" of the anarchist scene. Liberalism with a radical veneer.

Anarchists and other liberals? You can't distinguish between the two yet this campaign is the one that has a poverty of analysis? Mmmhmm.

"an actual analysis of class society"

like... who? Go ahead, admit who you're reading, you Marxist. You're fucking milquetoast if you don't.

Yeah sure, yuppies are just an invention of our twisted schizophrenic minds in a society populated and dominated by sane, conscious and rational people. Go back to sleep, sheep... shhhhhhh... (cuddling you while gently cutting your throat)

> determined band of activists

So what, the Irish starved because Oliver Cromwell took their land, the Ethiopians are having their land taken away from them now, and all the bloody far left can do is to protest Google Buses. They sure do like to pick easy targets don't they?

** ACTIVISTAS **

J.A.D.

Yeah AFRICOM isn't being much blocked... neither is Davos, or the George Soros's assets worldwide...

But mathematics:

Google X is a major contractor in NSA's black projects; the NSA is unarguably the most powerful government organization in the entire NATO, on which NATO fundamentally depends for its neo-colonial invasions of Africa these days. Then people are attacking the flows in one of the NSA's best assets? It is doing something relevant to Ethiopia.

Oh come on, don't give lame justifications for not 'doing something' on Ethiopia or wherever.

How much money is actually being lost if a few techies are late for one shift?
Is leafletting that guy's house costing him money somehow?
Oh and of course, the price of a bus window. Almost forgot.

Maybe google will have to pay for some expensive therapy when the workers experience mild emotional strain?

YOURE TRYING TO PUSH WATER UPHILL WITH A PIN

Don't forget the cost of the added security measures coupled with the perceived social stigma associating individuals with a draconian NSA civilian surveillance state. The smallest of actions can either cause security crack downs to spiral way beyond their original proportion, or show signs of an apparent weakness by a lack thereof. The fact that such people live so comfortably in the midst of such growing economic inequality may very well be the Achilles heal of high-tech domination. An over reaction from the state could backfire by spreading more alarmist rhetoric against an either perceived techno distopia or one that has actually emerged into existence. There does not seem, as yet, to be very much else in the way of real opposition state-side, and your comment fails to propose any better ideas.

What is the solution being sought by the neo-anarchist community? A collection of people are going to tell another group of people who lack organization where they can and can not live? Is the neo anarchist community objecting to combined transit and encouraging the use of individual automobiles? Or is it simply rage against people who look and act like their parents.

Rents are out of control in the city no doubt, like $2,700.00 a month for a 400 sq foot SRO, this is understood but what is the solution. Maybe we just make the city an impossible place to live, elevate the crime rate, start torching apartment buildings and increase the muggings in yuppie infested neighborhoods.

I think there was an example of how this ends. Neo-anarchist cannot make people equally wealthy but they can make everyone equally poor. This is year zero.

deny

exactly. our goal is to turn the entire world into a ghetto

now you're catching on

Ever hear of the burden of proof? I'm not claiming that this style of action is going to amount to much (quite the opposite) so I'm not obligated to discuss in detail, what I think would be a better use of people's time and energy. If i did, why would I post it here where 2 or 3 snarky jokers might read it?

I'm already involved in organizing work that I think will be worth the effort and it's contextual and probably wouldn't apply to san fran because I live in a different country, etc. NONE OF WHICH has much to do with my criticisms of this campaign against google. It's just that reading about it reminded me of the kind of stuff I was doing years ago, harassing politicians with PR-style vandal attacks and trying to convince the apathetic masses with leafletting and small-to-medium sized marches where you shout about issues that are very obscure by most people's standards and they all look at you as if you're from mars and maybe you get a splash of press here and there but it all amounts to FUCKING ZILCH.

So unless you view this type of stuff as a way to meet other people you share affinity with, I'm respectfully suggesting you go back to the drawing board and brainstorm about tighter bottlenecks and more efficient means of disruption. End Rant.

"...apathetic masses..."? No wonder they "look at you as if you're from mars" when you regard people is such terms. "PR-style vandal attacks"?...WTF. Right, activist just need better PR to convince "the masses" that their situation is subjectively bad enough to necessitate opposition for what... some good press? I just can't imagine how such a sophisticated strategy could ever have failed.

It's not a question of regard … it's objective fact. You can insulate yourself from reality if you like but your praxis is going to suffer for it, that's the point I'm apparently belabouring here. Think about it. There's only the two kinds of "vandalism" and the type that isn't just meant to be seen is more properly called sabotage. So minor vandalism is always a very light version of propaganda of the deed (or maybe just a genuine expression of rage in the moment) and as for the rest of my point, you seem to be struggling here.

MY POINT was that this wasn't a very good analysis or praxis, I was young and influenced by people around me. I'm describing why a lot of "activism" is doomed to failure by shitty praxis in exactly this way, and most of what I've read about this anti-google campaign falls in to that same category. Pattern recognition anyone?

I can't believe most of you bastards seem to be deating this stuff seriously. I mean fuck. Google buses? The NSA? San Francisco?!

It's ludicrous.

Trollfed isn't being paid enough to come up with good arguments. You can tell because he doesn't even bother to use any verbs in making his case besides "is."

Yeah well, those of us that are bothering to try and make arguments might as well be talking to a wall so this person maybe didn't feel like wasting their time?

"Trollfed isn't being paid enough to come up with good arguments."

Oh god why do I bother. Look I'm not the same commenter you replied to but I will say that you are fucking crazy. Do you really think someone is being paid to troll/criticize your actions? Honestly, are you fucking being serious about this?

Your crazed paranoia aside, it's less the action peeps are trolling (for free and for fun) and more to do with the INSANE delusions of grandeur, the over zealous defense of any criticism and the pathetic attempts to create a false consensus (an old activist trick), the example on @ news is by using anonymous commenting.

Say what you got say but leave the inflated yteenage ego

It's an established fact that corporations use paid online commentators. To suggest otherwise makes you either naive or a liar. It's clear to me that you're either a schill or an asshole, either way you're not worth listening to.

Sure they do … when they feel threatened enough to justify spending money on counter info campaigns. Also they'd want their schills to proselytize somewhere that would reach the largest audience possible, since its costing them money. This isn't that on both counts.

Some of us ARE assholes but that doesn't change the fact that you live in a little loop of circular logic that makes you immune to any criticism. Good luck with that.

"Sure they do … when they feel threatened enough to justify spending money on counter info campaigns. "

Duh! So they don't see any interest in disinfo campaigns against the people threatening their very interests? That's not what the talking points revealed by that sympathetic Google employee has revealed.

Perhaps you're just plain dumb, so you can't see the most basic tricks in opponent's part of the game.

Perhaps you don't realize how petty and adversarial your writing style comes across as? I can practically hear the snarky nerd lisp. You keep confusing your own inflated sense of things with other people's comprehension level.

Why do anarchists care so much about issues? Who cares if some comrades from the bay have decided to participate in a struggle against Google? Is it a tension that runs deep in the city? Does conflict along these lines have the potential to grow? In so doing, are anarchists willing to equip this conflict with measures to marginalize the left?

These are the only questions that matter. It doesn't matter how much money the blockades cost Google. The politics of gentrification and yuppies and blah blah blah don't really matter. The important thing is to identify a tension in the situation, pick a side within it, hold open the window of social disaffection for as long as possible, build on the force which is able to inhabit and magnify said social disaffection (by marrying it with everyday life), and to push for communizing measures as soon as possible.

These militant critiques are as far off the mark as the liberal ones because they still seek validation inside of a radical economy of "direct action", "maximum damage" and "coolness." Give up activism, already! Give up by giving substance to the emerging lines of flight, not the aesthetics of radicalism.

Naw I agree with you on finding the tensions and the very visible google bus routes and it's direct correlation to the rising cost of living is a very good start. It's as you say

"These militant critiques are as far off the mark as the liberal ones because they still seek validation inside of a radical economy of "direct action", "maximum damage" and "coolness." Give up activism, already! Give up by giving substance to the emerging lines of flight, not the aesthetics of radicalism."

it is that that I and I feel others are trolling.

It's simply not "cool" enough to create a meaningful collective resistance by exploiting existing tensions, which are felt and understood on a broader level. Instead some bat shit crazy analysis of how this is combating the tech world and according to an "insider", putting fear into the hearts of google, by the law of anarch-coolness has to come with it as some sort of new praxis/tendency.

It's pathetic that I had to read a MSM article to even see why the idea of google buses was at first appealing. Primarily because all the propaganda coming from those involved have been over the top self congratulatory and have given the appearance to outsiders that this is nothing more than some weird conflict between two gentrifying forces.

On one side you got out of touch, middle class, white college kids and on the other, their better paid future selves.

Respectfully disagree because youre floating a coherent argument.

I'm not bashing this shit based on it's "direct action coolness" and I do think we can pick and choose which sorts of tension have developmental possibilities based on prior experience. I'm bashing this shit because I was doing it years ago and it didn't work because of the reality gap of abstraction, the trees for the forest, etc.

You're not going to mobilize enough people with this analysis to make the tactics viable. It's simple really, pamphleting and isolated economic disruption by a few dozen folks within a major city makes little to no sense outside of the "raising awareness" type of praxis and that road rarely goes anywhere because "convincing everybody" is shitty praxis unless the issues are stuff like - the grocery store will be empty tomorrow or - the power grid is going down forever. Otherwise you should recognize that anti-gentrification dialogues only have resonance for about 2 or 3 out of every thousand people and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Translation: hey guys, me and my tech friends are totally sympathetic to Edward Snowden and stuff, but this focus on gentrification is like totally alienating, pick a better target. Just cause we're displacing poor and working class folks doesn't make us the enemy! Get better praxis or something!

Not even close … I'm some lumpenprole from an entirely different country.

Doubtful, but if that's the case, then why the obsession with what's going on in San Francisco? Aren't there more relevant struggles in your own area that are dying to be educated by you on correct praxis?

Goddamn, the responses from these google bus kids are like a monty python skit... scratch that, monty python is intelligent and funny.

If anything it is more like sean penn going full retard in I am Sam, it would be funny if it wasn't so horribly painful to watch.

I don't buy into college educated pc language bullshit, but even in just moderately civilized discourse, 'retard' is frowned upon. Fuck off you piece of shit, you've exposed yourself as a reactionary piece of shit.

You tell em' you non-college educated, non-politically correct kid!!

"The important thing is to identify a tension in the situation, pick a side within it, hold open the window of social disaffection for as long as possible, build on the force which is able to inhabit and magnify said social disaffection (by marrying it with everyday life), and to push for communizing measures as soon as possible."

where is this from, the little red/black anarchist book? ahahaha

There is no such book, unfortunately.

Practice - doing something with your body.

Examples: organizing events, propaganda, black bloc, bombings, civil disobedience, unionization etc.

Praxis - an approach to theory and practice in which the two are linked and intertwined.

Praxis is not Marxist synonym for practice.

Thanks dictionary? I keep using the word because the pitfalls of reformist/activist tactics are spelled-out as you begin to USE the word praxis when you make decisions. Don't pamphlet, march and riot because thats what protestors do … that's the spectacle.

ie. Goal: Stick in to google because fuck everything about them. Tactics: Pamphlets, marching and minor vandalism to try and convince everyone else that google sucks. PRAXIS FAIL: Most people don't give a shit whether google is good or bad for society OR if an orwellian technocratic dystopia is slowly encroaching via gentrification by google employees. THEY DONT CARE.
THEREFORE it's not a matter of them being convinced or not?

Also I'm probably being trolled.

good or bad for society!? dude

Yeah yeah, fuck society, war on society, etc. We're not talking about people we share affinity with, that's my point!
I'm talking about how "awareness raising" type tactics involve (usually) several logic fallacies based on very naive assumptions about the vast majority of society which is why I switched over to the black flag many years ago?

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