The tech bus protests are over, but the problems that created them are not

Oakland bus protestBiz CarsonProtestors in Oakland campaign against tech buses.

The tech bus protest movement has run its course, and the Bay Area needs to find a new way to advance the discussion of what to do with the tech industry.

The movement used to be one of San Francisco’s most visual acts of class warfare. Protestors targeted tech execs by name, vomited on bus windshields and smashed windows. They were extreme, and it’s clear that tech companies and drivers have taken steps to try to avoid them.

But on Friday, protestors stood outside MacArthur BART station in Oakland, California with “#FuckZuck” and “No one wants you here” signs for two hours. There were no chants. Just one loud organiser with a mic who only identified herself as Cleo, and about 30 other supporters holding pieces of cardboard or just lazily lounging against the wall.

It was a tech bus protest that didn’t ensnare a single bus. The lone bus that stopped by at 7:40 picked up one passenger on the other side of the street and was off before the crowd could even react.

The protestors themselves gave mixed messages. Organiser Cleo, who refused to give a last name, was spouting off hatred towards tech workers on one end of the banner through a megaphone.

“I don’t want their jobs here. I want them to leave because they are not giving back to the community,” Cleo said.

Oakland tech bus protestBiz CarsonAndre San-Chez, of Oakland, holds up a banner at the May Day tech bus protest.

Holding up the other end of the banner, Andre San-Chez was asking for dialogue and discussion.

“It’s a lot easier to brush away online comments than it is face-to-face,” San-Chez said.

He talked about tech companies providing education to youth in Oakland to teach them coding skills to help them get jobs at the companies one day.

“It’s not necessarily the employees, it’s the CEOs and the companies,” he said.

However, the “Your friend request has been denied” banner Cleo and San-Chez were holding brings the protest back to what it was: a protest against tech in Oakland and the workers who were getting on the buses. The buses that then never showed up.

There is no doubt that the technology industry has caused stress and strife on both sides of the bay. Some of the protestors at the event were teenagers who had seen their parents go up against landlords, trying not to lose their apartments in the face of gentrification. San-Chez has seen several houses on his block renovated with new neighbours moving in.

Oakland bus protestBiz CarsonThe turnout at the May Day bus protest. At left, members of the press interview San-Chez and Cleo. At right, other protestors lean against the walls.

There’s no way to have a dialogue between two sides, however, when only one person is there to hear it. The tech bus protest movement has lost support from all sides, and today the buses drove around it.

The Bay Area needs to find a new way to draw attention to community issues like gentrification without harming property or disinviting the participants from the table in the first place by telling “techie scum” to “go away”.

If protestors like San-Chez want these companies to step in and educate youth or have tech workers give back to the community, that conversation should not be held at a protest specifically aimed against them.

The bus protest no longer works as way to draw attention to what tech is doing to the Bay Area.

As one woman said after she made her way through the crowd, laughing: “Oh, they’re at it again.”

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