For some time now San Francisco residents have argued that that the success of search giant Google and other Silicon Valley companies like Paypal, Apple and eBay, among others, are making the city the most expensive place to rent in the US and unfairly marginalising those who don't work for a booming tech company.
This frustration manfiested in a fiery protest yesterday which, as reported by SFGate, saw a dozen protesters standing around a 'Google bus' with signs saying “Public $$$$, Private Gains,” “Stop Displacement Now,” “Fine $271, Total Fine $1 Billion,” and “Warning: Two-Tier System.”
The protest, organized by an advocacy group called Heart of the City, took aim at private commuter buses which whisk thousands of employees from stops around San Francisco to jobs at technology companies south of the city, like Google.
The protest was undermined however by a protester who pretended to be a tone-deaf Google employee shouting at the other protesters, led to one of the Google buses being temporarily stopped (video below, courtesy of SF Bay Guardian).
A man who screamed at protest organizer Erin McElroy, 31, was later identified as a union worker who was pretending to be a Google employee upset at being delayed by the protest.
As reported by Reuters, advocates of the special designated buses argue they ease traffic on already clogged highways as workers give up driving individual cars for the convenience of riding in the buses, which usually come with plush seats and WiFi.
Opponents meanwhile say the buses "jam up municipal bus stops and remove potential customers from cash-strapped public transportation systems, including regional rail service, that could use their revenue."
Trapped Google workers spent about a half hour sitting on the bus until the protesters left, some sending tweets while the protest unfolded.
“My shuttle came under siege this morning,” tweeted Alejandro Villarreal, while “Don’t hate on me for my job,” tweeted @FashionistaLab, whose Twitter description identifies her as a style editor at Google Shopping. “You think I LIKE commuting to Mountain View? This protest is dumb.”
Increasingly, graffiti has appeared around town complaining about the buses.
Reuters reported one such notice said “Google scum"; pasted to a light controller at the corner of South Van Ness Street, a major artery for the commuter buses, while “Keep catching your bus,” read a notice on the other side of the light controller.
San Francisco is the most expensive city for rent across the whole of the United States, as the city's traditional residents are being driven out to cheaper areas.
Google and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency have not yet responded to requests for comment.