While Friday’s tech bus protest in the Mission District remained peaceful, an organizer told Mission Local Saturday that she doesn’t fault the more destructive tactics protesters used against a tech bus in West Oakland that won major play in the national press.
Protesters targeting a bus by the West Oakland BART station allegedly broke a window of the bus, carried a banner that said “F*** off Google,” and distributed a flyer that read, “The people outside your Google bus serve you coffee, watch your kids, have sex with you for money, make you food, and are being driven out of their neighborhoods. 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.” One of the workers who was on the bus tweeted at reporters, “We just left and drove without window.”
In contrast, the San Francisco protesters showed up to block an Apple bus with megaphones, an ardent anti-displacement message, and whimsical cardboard costumes of Google pinpoints that read “Evicted.” A Reuters photo captured the bus driver looking a bit amused by the spectacle. Still, one of the lead organizers said she “can’t fault” Oakland’s more aggressive tactics.
“It’s not our place to tell them how to fight back and organize in their community,” says Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, an organizer with San Francisco’s Heart of the City movement, the coalition of housing rights activists who have staged the protests in the city. “I think people who are affected by a problem need to do whatever it takes to stop the crazy violence of the displacement in their community, and I’m not going to judge anyone for the way they try to keep that message across.”
Sherburn-Zimmer had told Mission Local this week that the protests were “loosely coordinated,” but said the East Bay protesters are a different group and there wasn’t cross-bay coordination on tactics. “I’m excited the East Bay was also protesting because we don’t recognize this as a cross-bay problem,” she said.
A statement published in press reports from the Bay Area Council, a business group that represents 30 shuttle bus operators in their negotiations with San Francisco officials, stated: “the vandalism and violence against employee shuttles and the workers who ride them is unfortunate and unacceptable.”
While the media is already questioning whether the vandalism undermines the movement’s message, Sherburn-Zimmer says the violence will hijack the bus protest story “only if the media makes it that way,” she says.
And how do broken windows and f-bombs affect the amount of sympathy that you can get from the public? “Frankly, people in San Francisco have seen a lot of people displaced,” Sherburn-Zimmer says. “I think people are more concerned about their elderly neighbor upstairs and their children than they are about a window in Oakland. We’re not going to stop protesting displacement because someone broke a window somewhere else.”