Old and new tech are colliding in San Francisco—literally.
Demonstrators gathered up electric scooters and used them to obstruct Google’s commuter shuttles for employees, also known as Google buses, this morning in San Francisco. The protestors carried bright yellow signs that bore slogans including, “Techsploitation is toxic” and “Fuck off Google,” according to video and photos shared on Twitter.
A video filmed and shared by Motherboard reporter Sarah Emerson showed a man in a yellow shirt attempting to clear one pile of scooters, which appeared largely made up of devices from e-scooter and e-bike company Lime. The man, according to Emerson, was a Google employee, and every time he removed a scooter, a protestor picked it up and replaced it at the top of the pile.
San Francisco stepped up efforts to remove homeless encampments in late April, sweeping tents from the Mission district. “We are going to have a dedicated team to make sure they don’t come back,” mayor Mark Farrell said at the time. Demonstrators on May 31 chanted for Google to get “off our streets” to protest what they see as the city’s preferential treatment of big technology companies. Other tech companies, including Apple and Facebook, also operate buses to bring workers from San Francisco and Oakland to their Silicon Valley campuses. The buses have been the target of vandalism and focus of anti-gentrification protests over the past few years.
Electric scooters have flooded San Francisco and other cities in California thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars from venture capitalists looking to change the way people get around. Scooter critics believe they are a safety hazard and public nuisance, but even they probably never imagined scooters could be quite so disruptive.