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Activists block tech bus commute, say e-scooters treated better than homeless

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Activists blocked a commuter shuttle in the Mission District Thursday with a pile of e-scooters, saying The City treated the scooters better than it did the homeless. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

Tenants-rights activists blocked at least nine tech buses Thursday morning in San Francisco’s Mission District with a scooter blockade, claiming “shared” scooters are treated better than The City’s homeless.

Nearly 60 protesters piled a dozen of the controversial e-scooters in front of a Google bus at Valencia and 24th streets, placed an orange smoke grenade atop the pile and lit it. Plumes of orange clouds puffed above the protesters, who were wearing hazmat suits, as they cried out “One, we are the people! Two, a little bit louder! Three, we want Google off our streets.”

The protest comes on the heels of Mission District sweeps of homeless encampments on April 25 at the behest of Mayor Mark Farrell. Though the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing counted at least 126 tents in the neighborhood prior to the sweeps, only six homeless people were placed into the offered short-term shelters, reporting by the San Francisco Examiner previously revealed.

The protesters Thursday morning claim those sweeps show The City treats its homeless population worse than tech-enabled scooters. The City has temporarily banned the scooters from city streets starting June 4, before the beginning of a formal pilot program to allow them back slated for July.

“It’s absurd scooters have more rights than the homeless do,” said Chirag Bhakta, 30, a San Francisco native from the Tenderloin who participated in the protest. He said while the scooter companies were treated politely in city hearings that were expedited by officials respectful of monied interests, homeless denizens were simply wiped away.

The homeless, he said, “deserve the same consideration in City Hall.”

Students, seniors and others from the tenants-rights groups and the Coalition on Homelessness and in solidarity with activists from San Jose and Berlin, decried “techsploitation” as they blocked at least nine commuter shuttles bound for tech campuses in the Bay Area, as well as a handful of Muni buses and other city traffic.

Protesters decried “techsploitation” of San Franciscans, and held aloft signs that said “your disruption is our displacement” as they blocked traffic.

At times the protest became heated. As a protester placed her hand on a red Toyota Tundra trying to weave slowly through the crowd, a man in the truck shouted “Don’t touch my shit like that, bitch,” and walked out of the truck to ward her off.

At another point, a man who declined to be identified started scooping the scooters out from in front of a Google-bound bus and onto the sidewalk, only to see protesters throw them back on the pile. Another man who declined to be identified, but who wore a Google-branded backpack, shouted at the protesters, “I grew up here! I get this city!” A protester in a hazmat suit blocking the Google bus told him, “You’re just a fucking sell-out. It’s not that complicated.”

The man in the Google backpack said he attended University High School, and told the Examiner “We’re just employees, we’re the common people.”

Yet others from San Francisco disagreed. Zitlalli Ordonez, 17, who was raised in The City, spoke at the protest, and decried a changing Mission District that displays an indifference to the homeless.

She later told the Examiner, “The City gets hella money from tech companies. Where is that money going?”

“If it went to the house-less, it wouldn’t be a problem,” she said.

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