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Indybay Feature

Google Bus blocked and disrupted in West Oakland

by Anti-Cyborg Conglomerate
An account by participants in an autonomous anti-gentrification action to block a Google Bus at 7th and Adeline in West Oakland.

At 8:15, a small group of people met at 7th and Adeline in West Oakland. Down the street, over 20 employees of Google were queued up, waiting for their giant white bus to take them to their Mountain View headquarters. When it arrived, a kind young man, homeless and unemployed, boarded the bus with the employees.

While they took their seats, several people unfurled two giant banners reading “TECHIES: Your World Is Not Welcome Here” and “FUCK OFF GOOGLE.” They offered fliers to the passengers but they were refused. One passenger tried to take someone’s bicycle, but they were repelled. Inside the bus, the other passengers slowly became aware of what was happening outside. One female passenger suddenly remarked, “The protesters are at it again.”
The kind young man on the bus urgently approached the bus driver and began asking,

“Bus driver, what are you gonna do, man? What are you gonna do?”
“Don’t worry. It’s freedom of speech, freedom of speech.”
The kind young man then walked to the rear of the bus, saying,
“Oh my god! What’s gonna happen next?”
The same female passenger took out her phone and began filming the blockade.
“At least we’re warm in here and they’re cold out there,” she said.

Almost on cue, a person appeared from behind the bus and quickly smashed the whole of the rear window, making glass rain down on the street. Cold air blew inside the bus and the blockaders with their banners departed. The kind young man left the bus and outside someone threw fliers with a smiley face logo and the message ‘disrupt google’ into the air.

After this the bus remained where it was, blocked for the time being. Several more people arrived while the stranded Google employees began collecting the fliers off the street. The bus remained where it was, the thought of driving to Mountain View with a broken window and flooded with cold air an unthinkable horror they could not endure. Another crowd assembled near the bus pickup zone and within the hour the blockade began again.
All of this took place while simultaneous, autonomous blockades occurred at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland and in the Mission District of San Francisco.

The kind young man encourages everyone to “go out and have a little fun.”


West Oakland is a traditionally black neighborhood that surrounds the Port of Oakland. It has been heavily gentrified, developed, and restructured over the past three decades. Now there is an upper class enclave that has been established near the West Oakland BART station, in Jack London, and in the city of Emeryville. Many tech employees currently reside in these locations and have driven up the property values and rent prices, creating animosity, evictions, and poverty.

While this is taking place, the City of Oakland and Federal law enforcement are attempting to spread a surveillance network called the Domain Awareness Center throughout Oakland. Intended to secure the Port of Oakland against terrorist attacks and labor struggle, this surveillance network will actually monitor the entirety of Oakland through over 800 cameras. The authorities want to monitor the crazy and uncontrollable city that is pressed right up against the Port of Oakland. For them, the entire city is a variable that they want to control. The surveillance network and the gentrification serve the same purpose: to pacify, contain, and sterilize a city that carries rebellion deep inside its heart. Already, the surveillance center has been used against Oakland residents taking action against police violence. West Oakland is a concrete and clear example of the transformation that has occurred in the areas around the Port. This is why the action took place were it did.

The Google bus was an obvious target, but obviously the situation is more complex than one corporation and its specific employees. Gentrification is a dynamic and nuanced problem that is only beginning to be addressed and alleviated. It has many layers, players, and levels which undoubtedly will be exposed and elucidated in the near future by numerous individuals and groups.

by Anti-Cyborg Conglomerate
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by good job
just saw this on twitter
by Daniel
What I want to know is, does everyone feel this way?
by Shaftoe
Death and poverty (and burned down buildings, piss and shit in the street, etc.) was in West Oakland way before hipster google employees started moving there.
by Kevin C
Believing that you are entitled to vandalize others' property simply because their job pays them more is not acceptable. There is no way around that. When you start breaking others' shit, that's where you cross the line from exercising your freedom of expression/protest to criminal activity. I find it kind of cute that the author of this article glorifies what they did (e.g. "kind young man").
by anonymous
That may be true, but now add to the list displacement and massive surveillance infrastructure...
by anonymous
If you'd like to see what things look like after the gentrifiers you detest so much leave, just head over to Detroit. Housing is plenty cheap, there.
by anti-gentro guy
Make the problem public. Get in their faces. And keep at it. Breaking a little property is the very least people can do in response to the massive damage done to working people's lives by the dictatorship of the market.
by yahdbuhd
same thing applies to silicon valley, sanitized violent police surveillance. uptight authorities.profilers. paranoid ''citizens'' relying on police to calm them.
by Tim
Your article says that gentrification (caused in part by Google) "...[creates] animosity, evictions, and poverty."

The first two are likely true; the third is NOT. At best it could create homelessness, but poverty is about the income of those involved, not their living arrangements.

Even to claim homelessness as an effect of gentrification would be a stretch: There are plenty of places in Oakland that haven't been gentrified; most of the south end ("East Oakland") for instance, and where the rents haven't skyrocketed.

Google is bringing money TO the Bay Area; fighting Google isn't going to fix poverty. And unlike many big companies, Google tends to spread the wealth around to its thousands of employees, who all end up spending more -- yes, on rent as well, but also on goods and services.

This protest targeted the wrong company.
by #googleglass
nice try, google pr machine
by EastBayDweller
So what happens when, in the destruction of private property, people on the bus are hurt, permanently disabled, or even killed? Did anyone stop to think that the people who ride that bus are ordinary working people--office admins and graphic artists and programmers and cafeteria workers and janitors and everyone else who needs to pay rent and feed their kids and survive here?

So, potentially hurting an innocent person is an ok tradeoff for the sake of a cause? Really?

Maybe, instead of expending energy in ways that could hurt average working folks, you could actually think critically about the root of the problem here instead of mindless stupidity around an easy answer.
by #blowinyerlid
wut ya mean bruh? go freeze to death in 29 degree weather, then talk bout hurting someone with a u-lock
by Curious
On the evening of Oakland's ''General Strike '' a young Indian-American Man who is also a Antiwar Iraqi War vet was trying to return to his Uptown condo after participating in the mass demo at the Port of Oakland . After angering some OPD thugs for the ''crime '' of insisting that he had the right to cross the police lines to return to his home, he was so badly beaten that his spleen was ruptured and he could have easily died .
Of course the cops who attacked were never prosecuted but his attornies recently settled his Civil suit for 600 K .
The man was Kayvan Sabeghi . He BTW is also a successful ''Techie ''and a part owner of a Micro Brew pub !
I have no idea if he does and has ever worked for Google . But if he has/does is he a Hipster enemy of the working class ? Just curious .
PS I hate to break the news to those waging war on gentrification but MOST workers in this country work for Multinationals like Google . Or At and T,Sprint, Starbucks, Pacific Maritime association (in the Port of Oakland ) and many others
They often have no choice. And the logic that it's the tenants are the ones responsible for High rents is really weird . You guys really don't more about how capitalism works do you ?
by Curious
I meant to write that those who think that tenants (no what their pay scale is ! ) are the ones responsible for High rents really don't know how Capitalism works
by dolla
i dont know him. is he?

and you know, if you make a lot of money and can afford things other people cant, developers will build some pile of shit, and if you move into that pile of shit for the price they ask, they'll build more piles of shit for other people to live in. can't you see how gentrification AND capitalism work. ther kinda the same now
by Jim
I think all the tech companies should move out of the bay area. Then all the companies that rely on the tech companies will move out the area also. And all these people will no longer be around to take up the rental spaces. That should make the housing prices plummet. PROBLEM SOLVED.
by Xaviera Hollander
You are the 'wretched of the earth' because you choose, of your own volition, to rent your orifices to moneyed techies? With this claim -- for your sake a hopefully untrue one -- you expect, what, pity or derision? Right now you've got both.

When those of us who haven't spent a high ninety percent of our lives at our parents' large houses in the 'burbs see a line like this, a huge steel fire station alarm bell goes off: "Brrrrrrrrrring! Children of class privilege alert! Progeny of the bourgeoisie on a slumming sabbatical from their parent's social class tryin' to act all hella-streety an' shit!"

If you don't want to lose all credibility with anyone other than your friends, housemates, and porn consumers, I'd lose this one fast -- real fast!
by X.H.
Everything else that you are doing is quite good; it is hitting the right notes on all the right keys. Keep at it!
by Ray C.
How in Sam Hill is this "anti-capitalism"? This is the working class against the working class.
The people who work for Google and Apple fall squarely into the middle class bracket. You don't become rich just because you have a Computer Science degree and land a job at a tech company.

I'm with you guys that gentrification can hurt poor people and price them out of their own homes and apartments. The people you need to be protesting are not the Google employees, it's the government and the landlords. Ask the government to set aside a certain percentage of the housing for affordable rents. Tell the landlords to do the same.

Those people you are protesting bring a lot of money to the community by shopping and eating locally. They buy a lot of overpriced stuff you laugh at, but that could easily be subsidizing MORE jobs and MORE opportunities for the poor to climb the ladder out of poverty.

If you succeed at getting rid of them, all you are going to do is create a community with stagnant growth and minimal chances for the future.
by evicted
Economic growth is a capitalist phenomenon and a capitalist objective, and is antithetical to the satisfaction of human needs. The tech employees are analogous to scabs in a conventional labor dispute. Anyway blocking their buses isn't physically attacking them. They can use a little inconvenience; they've helped bring much more than inconvenience to a huge number of indisputably working class people in the SF Bay Area. The cyber-buses are a visible symbol of the problem here and as such a wholly legitimate target.

People whose use the canard of "working class solidarity" in this context have no credible real-world alternatives to offer. Your evocation of this in this situation is a philosophically idealist construct. You have no better alternative proposals; your suggestion is basically that nothing should happen.
by Darren
The only economic ideology that does not advocate economic growth are those under the umbrella of steady-state economics, which most theories of socialism do not fall under.

In a socialist society, economic gains are redistributed to the people since the means of production are collectively owned. Collective ownership is in no way mutually exclusive to growth.
by Ray C.
I am an IT worker. (Not at Google.) I learned this work so that I would not have to live under the worst conditions that this country has to offer. I recognize that I have had opportunities that many others have not; but opportunity is not a zero sum game, and renouncing those opportunities would not have granted them to someone else.

If the lower working class tears the upper working class down: One, to what will the lower working class reasonably aspire? Two, is that not just the sort of infighting that the plutocrats like to stir up? Three, just what does that do to the ones who are really responsible for the inequities of our society?
by Anti-gen. guy
...economic growth will not exist. The abolition of the market economy means free direct allocation according to need.

The anti-cyber-weenie-bus efforts are clearly having a positive effect; they help define the conflict in class terms and no one is being physically harmed, either. If you've got a better plan, go make it happen.
by IndyMindy
I felt generally encouraged to read about the action in that people expressed legitimate anger at the destruction of Oakland communities and confronted people who appear not to give a shit about anything beyond Pottery Barn home furnishings. I also have some concerns and thoughts of my own to share. I'm making a few assumptions here about the people involved in the Google bus action, based on the pictures posted and on my personal experiences. Please let me know if I have made any mistakes. My goal is to provoke thought and to be helpful.

1. The activists in the photos appear to be mostly of European descent. If this is true for you, have you considered what impact the presence of your white skin, your culture and your lifestyle has had on longer-term residents and communities in the area? White anarchists, middle-class-dropouts, artists and activists are part of the first wave of gentrification in historically African-American neighborhoods. Their residence makes settlement attractive to other white people. As such, they share responsibility for ongoing gentrification with other relatively privileged tenants, such as Google employees. If you are identifying the Google employees as the problem (and not the most powerful players in the system), how did you keep from pointing at least one finger at yourselves? You may find, if you look deeply enough (or maybe less deeply!), that you have as much, or more, in common with the people in the bus, in terms of privilege, culture and background, than you do with the rest of West Oakland. If this is true, then my experience shows that coming from a basis of shared identification is more successful in opening dialogue, building connections and creating change than purely antagonistic confrontations. Why not own the similarities that exist, in addition to the differences, and see what comes of it? I know, it makes things more complicated, and we are all desperate for answers at this point. It's just important that we be honest with each other.

2. Many, many people struggling to survive in Oakland would LOVE to have a job at Google. That doesn't mean they like the system how it is, it means they have gained an understanding, through years and generations of oppression, of their powerlessness to change the system by throwing rocks at parts of it, or to survive and preserve their cultures by any other means than work. They are willing to bend so they don't break. Do the people involved in the action all really have jobs? Because if you can survive off of dumpster diving and free meals, don't need to pay rent, and actually have the attitude that people with decent paying jobs are the problem, it's either because you live so close to the centers of wealth and its excesses (such as created and maintained by the tech industry) that you feed off of it, and/or because of your personal privileges (whether or not you think you gave them up when you moved to West Oakland) afford you the ability to navigate your alternative lifestyle. Not having children to support by the time you are 25 is a result of privilege. If you have an answer for all those people on the bus as to how else they could support themselves and their families and contribute to the community, when are you going to let them know, instead of treating them like the enemy? Are you going to invite them to live in your squats with you?

3. People with the most real, severe experiences of poverty do not blame the middle class for the whole disaster wrought by capitalism. I'm serious, ask them. However, they might shame you right quick for rejecting class privilege, if you were raised with it, and the opportunities it provides. Are you pretending to be poor and more oppressed than you really are to gain working class or street cred? If so, I guarantee that your ancestors are rolling over in their graves. Anyone in this country with a European background has parents or grandparents or great-grandparents who worked hard to rise above poverty for a reason: it sucks. Of course, many of them used slavery to accomplish this, which sucks just as much for someone else. If you are actually a personal employee of a Google employee, or you work at a coffee or sandwich shop that serves them, recognize that somebody else is, right now, in this country or in another, growing the beans and cutting the wheat and mining tech metals for 50 cents a day so that YOU can earn $8, 9, 20 or 100 an hour (I don't know what you charge for babysitting and sex work for Google employees, but if you charge less than $20/hr for childcare and $100/hr for sex work, you're selling yourself short), and blog about your political actions on your computer. My point is that you have a whole bunch of slaves, too. As do I. So why not focus on liberating those below you, those whose necks YOU are standing on, first? And if you can't, for whatever reason, what makes you think that anyone above you can choose to stop benefiting from YOUR oppression?

4. Individuals among all strata of society can have a role in revolution, if they have their hearts and minds in the right place. In fact, we NEED people who work within the system in order for this to work. Tech workers can help crack codes, advise on strengthening security among dissidents, or sabotage the entire industry. Don't forget, even police have turned against the system, but kept their jobs for the money and so that they can inform fellow revolutionaries on departmental strategy. How cool is that? How do you know nobody on that bus is sympathetic to the cause and plans to fuck with the system, but needs to dress like a yuppie and take a stupid bus to get to work to do what needs to be done? Maybe they would love to wear Carhartt jackets, scowl at everyone and smoke American Spirits all day, but are making sacrifices for something bigger than themselves. When you make assumptions about people because of the way they dress, what they eat, and where they work, you reduce revolution to a lifestyle choice, and put yourself in a box as well, one that must continually be reinforced by an oppositional spectacle that creates further divisions, fear, confusion and animosity between social classes that are ALL oppressed under the big guys who hoard 99% of the world's wealth. You could be spending that time building connections between potential allies WITHIN the system based on honest communication of the situation and creative problem-solving using everyone's strengths and points of access. Talk to people like they are intelligent, compassionate, and creative, and you may be surprised that they are sympathetic or even completely fed up with their situation and can be counted on to cooperate. At least giving people the benefit of the doubt will make you less of an unapproachable, arrogant asshole and give you the opportunity to learn about what factors have influenced people's choices. Nobody should have to justify to YOU their choice to work, even for an evil company like Google, maybe even especially in that case, since techies can be so much more useful to us on the inside.

5. If you live in West Oakland, you have your finger on the pulse of humanity. That is one role among many in a successful revolution. I want to encourage people to use whatever privilege you have to help build bridges and to exploit the system. We need to organize among ourselves like grown ups recognizing the immensity of forces affecting our choices, making strategic decisions that consider in each situation where the best possibilities lie (hint: breaking windows is not always the answer). We need more underground operations and fewer attention-getting schemes. If we, as anarchists, continue to just antagonize "outsiders" to reinforce our sense of belonging in the "right" social scene, we will fail as revolutionaries and continue to be the mockery and disappointment of every person who looks at America, wondering if there are any sane, good, responsible people willing to do the hard work to overthrow this awful regime.

Well, I said I just wanted to be helpful, but I was also snarky and self-righteous, because it's fun. Of course, every criticism I offer has, at one time, applied to my own thinking and behavior as well, so I am inviting us all to look and laugh at ourselves together as we learn how to be more fully human. Hopefully we can all have the courage to discard the sense of smug superiority that is so easy for us as dissidents to embody, whether we are confronting friends, families, bosses, neighbors, governments or corporations, and let our egos step aside so that we can bring out the best in one another and work constructively. Otherwise, our toxic attitudes will limit the size, health and strength of our communities and ultimately destroy any chance we have for making the world a better place. We can do this! We just have to think it through, and be willing to forego some minor, temporary satisfactions for the sake of effectiveness, for the sake of relationships, and ultimately, for a much bigger, stronger and longer lasting experience of glory.
by Santa Claws
"Those people you are protesting bring a lot of money to the community. They buy a lot of overpriced stuff..."

Most notably, your bodily orifices, whose only evident talent is talkin' shit!
by Aaron Aarons (indy2013 [at]
The answer: "It's the economy, stupid!"

The questions: "What is the most important abstract entity invented by capitalist ideologues to justify the subordination of life to capital?"
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