A coalition of activists has gathered outside of the closing ceremonies of TechCrunch’s annual conference Disrupt at Pier 48. They’re there to urge assembled tech company CEOs and start-up founders to take “immediate steps to remedy the economic inequality crisis that is afflicting both SanFrancisco and the entire country.”
In a press statement released earlier today, the activists say they are calling on the tech industry to support Proposition J, an upcoming ballot measure to raise the minimum wage, and Proposition G, a measure that would discourage the quick flipping of multi-unit buildings by imposing a transfer tax.
Claudia Tirado, a woman who lives at 812 Guerrero, where every resident was issued an eviction notice by Google lawyer Jack Halprin, will also likely be in attendance. If it’s anything like the protest at Google I/O, there’s likely to be literal disruption of events (Tirado infiltrated and interrupted that tech event earlier this summer).
Reload this post for more information as we share updates throughout the afternoon. Reporter Laura Wenus is on scene and we’ll be live-tweeting what she learns and witnesses. Stay tuned.
7:00 p.m.: Since the conference is winding down (and the protest is long over), we’ll cease our coverage for this evening. But first, some additional thoughts from protesters and conference-goers alike:
Alysabeth Alexander, one of the protestors, said part of the group has gone inside to hand out flyers about propositions G and J, and were met with mostly positive responses.
“A few people signed up to vote yes (on the measures),” Alexander said. “Most people I talked to were interested and excited.”
Hassan Hashmi attended the conference and didn’t notice the protest, but said he shared some of the protestors’ views: “I’m not a fan of the rising rents and evictions.”
John Rodriguez saw the protest and found it “ill-conceived.”
“It’s been a long time since a drum circle got me to do anything useful,” he said. “Are you trying to get me to eat hummus or are you trying to get me to vote a certain way?”
He said he didn’t find it particularly fair to draw a connection between tech and rent prices, saying landlords were primarily responsible.
6:40 p.m.: The grand prize winner of Tech Crunch Disrupt is Alfred, which is, essentially, a virtual butler. While the conference has made attempts to address tech’s role in easing inequality and helping more people, this choice seems ultimately like something only useful for the well-to-do. While the physical protesters have been removed, another protest seems to be mounting on Twitter:
And, 1% problems win again @ #tcdisrupt . lol
— Ro (@UptownRo) September 11, 2014
— Sarbjeet Johal (@sarbjeetjohal) September 11, 2014
#TCDisrupt solving 1st world problems for the past 6 years. Cause we all need buttlers now.
— QuotesFroMynightsOut (@QuotesNights) September 11, 2014
6:33 p.m.: Some final thoughts from conference-goers passing the protest about housing woes and inequality in San Francisco:
“Housing is a zero-sum game,” said attendee Kevin Wang.
“If you protest for something you should be a bit more serious about it…It feels like Venice Beach out here,” said Sebastian Gyr, a Swiss entrepreneur starting a business in the U.S.
Scotty Motte was more sympathetic. Motte traveled to the conference from L.A., but stopped to chat with a protester. “It seems like they’re doing their part to keep the culture going in San Francisco” he said. “San Francisco’s creativity has created a lot of wealth here.”
6:17 p.m.: One of the demands of today’s protesters was to improve the “lack of diversity in tech industry hiring, which symbolizes the way the tech economy works for a few top executives, but not for most real workers or people.” Not to say this is representative of an industry with known struggles around diversity, but PartPic, a start-up with an all-black staff and run by a black female CEO, just won an award:
Across the country, one fan of the start-up shared this reaction:
(We can’t confirm at this time if Angela Davis was actually there with him.) 5:44 p.m.: Looks like this particular action will be a short-lived one. Police just broke it up, and asked the protesters to move on. Protesters are saying that police referred to the sidewalk outside of Pier 48 as “public property,” and that Tech Crunch staff had contacted them to move the protesters along.
One apparent Disrupt fan is baffled that there would even be a protest:
5:42 p.m.: Ryan Olds, who works with the National Union of Health Workers, said he’s at the protest because the people at Disrupt are “part of the driving force” behind workers like him being forced out of the city. He said hospital workers have been rapidly pushed out. Some conference-goers were clearly indignant at the sight of protesters. “Fucking ridiculous,” said one.
5:40 p.m.: A conference goer snapped this Instagram video a familiar face from past protests: Benito Santiago, a teacher facing an eviction from his Duboce Park home. In the case of his eviction, protests appeared to work or, at least, help stay in his home. He successfully got his Ellis Act eviction rescinded.
5:30 p.m.: On the inside of the event, the winner of TechCrunch’s “Battlefield,” a competition in which start-ups compete for a $50,000 prize, is about to be announced.
Meanwhile, the protesters on the outside aren’t getting much love:
5:05 p.m.: The protesters have arrived. There are about eight people holding up a banner outside of the event. At least two people exiting Disrupt have shouted at the protesters. One said: “Landlords need more rights,” as well as a string of expletives.
4:50 p.m.: Protesters on the outside of Pier 48 hope to draw attention to issues related to income inequality and San Francisco’s increasingly high cost of living. Affordable housing and the growing culture gap isn’t a totally ignored topic on the inside of TechCrunch’s conference.
Yesterday, there was a panel featuring Yelp’s founder Jeremy Stoppelman and Supervisor David Chiu specifically about these very topics.
“We have a lot of cities and towns around San Francisco that have shut down housing development,” Chiu said. “The smartest way to grow in a region is to put housing close to the jobs. The only way to do that is at the state level.”
Furthermore, Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen, philanthropist and wife of tech pioneer Marc Andreesen, talked in a panel about the role tech can play in philanthropy. “We’re seeing that business models and philanthropic models are not mutually exclusive,” Arrillaga-Andreesen said.