One of Google's gilded buses that shuttles staff from San Francisco to its Mountain View HQ was this morning waylaid by anti-gentrification protestors.
Activists stopped the bus at 24th Street and Valencia in an attempt to raise awareness of the widening inequality in San Francisco, brought about by an influx of tech-generated wealth.
The protestors blocked the double-decker shuttle to highlight Google's use of public spaces: its private, employee-only buses call at the city's MUNI public transit stops. The campaigners are also irritated by the wider rapid gentrification of large swathes of San Francisco, claiming hefty Web 2.0 salaries drive up SF rent and force out other folk.
The bus was halted in front of a sign that wildly alleged: "WARNING: Illegal Use of Public Infrastructure," and another that declared: "WARNING: Two-Tier System," judging by photos posted (deliciously ironically) on social networks. The protest lasted for about half an hour, according to reports.
One Googler named Alejandro Villarreal posted a picture to Facebook-owned Instagram from inside the bus; the image was captioned: "My shuttle came under siege this morning. #Googleproblems?"
Another Google bod complained that the protest was making her late for work:
I agree with you that SF isn't for sale, but don't hate on me for my job. You think I LIKE commuting to Mountain View? this protest is dumb.— Adelle (@FashionistaLab) December 9, 2013
One bearded bloke, initially believed to be a bus passenger but that now seems unlikely, was recorded conveniently yelling at the protestors: "I can pay my rent, can you pay your rent? Well, if you can't, why don't you go to a city where you can afford it."
"Get a better job," he later blasted, as seen in this Bay Guardian video, neatly encapsulating the reasons why some SF residents are overwhelming unhappy with the tech moneyed class.
Although Google says its shuttle buses are environmentally friendly, as they encourage employees to not use cars to get to the company's sprawling Mountain View HQ, the buses have come to stand for the unequal distribution of wealth in Silicon Valley.
While junior Google engineers earn upwards of $80,000, incomes in other industries have stagnated. As young, well-paid employees from tech companies have gravitated to San Francisco, rents have rocketed up, driving out longterm residents. Though Google's mantra is "don't be evil" it is, however inadvertently, bringing about a painful change to the fabric of the city many of its employees call home.
We approached Google for comment, and will update this story if we hear back from the web giant. ®