As tenants of 812 Guerrero halted a Google bus at 6:30 a.m. today at 18th and Dolores to protest their eviction by Google lawyer Jack Halprin, the target of their protests, a man who has evaded press questioning and public appearances, walked toward it.
He could hear the protesters as he neared the corner of 18th and Dolores, but instead of turning around, he continued toward them. A reporter walked beside him. Are you Jack Halprin? He either smirked or grimaced, but kept walking, pulling something from his briefcase. It is unclear if he ever intended to board the bus and catch his ride to Mountain View – coming when he did, he would have missed the 6:30 a.m. bus – but instead of stopping or trying to get on the bus, he walked briskly by his tenants blockading it and headed toward Dolores Street.
The Google lawyer and landlord, close to six feet tall and solidly built, stopped there for a few seconds and then turned to head south on Dolores. Did he want to talk? He never looked toward the reporter, but kept walking. When protesters and others in the media came up from behind and started to shout, Jack Halprin ran most of the five blocks to the multi-unit building where he is evicting tenants from four units.
The group of about 20 protesters followed in a halting chase, megaphones in hand, prompting more than one sleepy neighbor to poke their head out of the window, some shouting back in audible irritation. The protesters who followed him taunted Halprin with shouts to make Christmas better for the children living in the units, to stop the evictions, to be decent. Why he ever appeared at a demonstration he clearly could have avoided is unknown. There was a sense of defiance in willfully walking into a protest he could hear a block away, but perhaps he just wanted to get to work.
“We can’t stay here, but why?” said Claudia Tirado, one of Halprin’s tenants facing an Ellis Act eviction in February, as the protest reassembled at the steps of 812 Guerrero. “You’re not going to get away with this without the whole world knowing.”
After almost a year of actions against the Google lawyer, first in April when his tenants found out about their upcoming eviction, then at Google I/O, Halprin’s plans for his four remaining tenants has garnered its fair share of attention. (Though, what exactly he plans to do with 812 Guerrero is unclear, and his options may be limited.) And, as their eviction approaches, his tenants intend to keep the spotlight on him.
“We’re trying to raise awareness,” said Chris “Johnny” Sideris, one of Halprin’s tenants. “What he’s doing is part of a bigger problem, and we want Google to clarify its position with the community.”
When reached for comment about the conflict between Halprin and his tenants, Google spokesperson Meghan Casserly offered the following statement:
While we don’t comment on employees personal lives, we continue to work hard to be good neighbors in the Bay Area. This December, to cap $20 million in local giving for 2014, we announced $2 million in Google funding to three San Francisco organizations working to help our city’s homeless and newly displaced residents. We’re committed to the community and look forward to doing more in 2015.
In regards to these recent donations, Sideris said he appreciated that the company is giving back to the city in which many of its employees live, but wish they could do more to mitigate the impact on the housing market for tenants and work with tenants rights groups.
Evan Wolkentein, a teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay and one of the tenant being evicted, said Halprin as been “clinically and even cruelly cold through the entire process.” From the start, he said, Halprin has declined to discuss any remedies. He simply wants them out.
After a rendition of “Hit the Road Jack,” and four police cruisers arrived, the protesters called it morning, but promised to be back.
“It’s getting scarier as eviction comes closer, that’s why we’re putting pressure on him and Google,” said Tirado outside her first floor apartment—her landlord presumably in his own home above with no comment to share.
Protesters blocking the Google Bus in the wee hours:
This post has been updated since it was first published. We’ll continue to update it as warranted.