In what could become a regular Bay Area morning ritual, protesters in San Francisco and Oakland who blame the booming technology industry for the current wave of gentrification briefly blocked shuttle buses ferrying workers to Silicon Valley this morning.
Shortly before 9 a.m., about 40 to 50 people – many carrying cardboard cutouts resembling Google map pins reading “Evicted” – surrounded one of the iconic, unmistakable private coaches at 24th and Valencia streets in The City, delaying its departure for about 25 minutes.
However, that particular bus belonged to Apple, according to signage on the coach's side.
Last week, some of the same organizers staged a similar protest of a bus carrying tech workers to Google.
Apple, Google, Yahoo, Genentech or eBay – “they're all the same to me,” said Paula Tejeda. The longtime Mission district resident and merchant also said she is going through an eviction proceeding from her rent-controlled apartment, which is not far from the scene of today's action. She dubbed San Francisco's current housing situation a “state of war.”
At around the same time, protesters in Oakland blocked Google buses at the MacArthur BART station and at Seventh and Adeline streets, according to Twitter feeds.
In San Francisco, protesters surrounded the Apple coach on all four sides, holding signs – including one giant canvas, supported by a wood frame, of a well-known Google map showing recent evictions in The City – and chanting slogans such as, “Get off the bus!”
“You don't get this kind of action unless you're in an emergency situation,” said Tejeda, as other tech buses whizzed by south on Valencia Street and others turned left down 24th Street to avoid the blocked lane of traffic.
Workers inside could be seen recording the action on their iPhones. Some waved at journalists outside or otherwise seemed amused by the situation as the driver sat with folded arms, waiting out the situation.
“We're not against the workers, the people of Google and Yahoo,” Tejeda added, as several different protesters took to a microphone and amplifier set up in the back of a pickup truck to demand that Mayor Ed Lee immediately halt evictions.
“We all own cellphones, I use technology,” she added, saying that the untenable economic situation is the target.
At least one man associated with the action exited the coach, but not to “confront” protesters like an East Bay activist posing as a Google employee did last week. Today's protester merely wanted to join in the action.
Protesters in Oakland also smashed the windows of one of the buses, according to Twitter reports. In a statement, The Bay Area Council, the area's biggest and most established business lobby, blasted the “vandalism and violence” as “unfortunate and unacceptable.”
No vandalism was immediately obvious at the Apple bus protest in San Francisco, and no incidents were reported to San Francisco police as of late this morning, according to Officer Albie Esparza.
The bus departed shortly before 9:30 a.m., after police from Mission Station escorted the protesters back onto the sidewalk.
Organizers then marched back down 24th Street to the BART station on Mission Street, chanting, “We'll be back!”
Will they? And when?
“We'll see,” said Erin McElroy, a protester associated with Eviction-Free San Francisco and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, two groups regularly associated with the backlash toward the tech industry.