Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Protest that Actually Helped People

Last January, low-income residents of San Francisco were REALLY MAD at the Google buses using their bus stops. Why? They viewed these buses as symbols of gentrification and displacement in a city where the rapid growth of the tech sector has driven up their rent. And Google wasn't paying anyone  anything to use the bus stops, but they were getting in the way of their regular buses, causing delays and overcrowding at the bus stops.  Imagine, seeing your own public transit cutback due to budget cuts, while some dude in a suit takes your spot in the bus shelter to wait for his fancy-pants Google shuttle that you can't even ride.

So, angry protestors began blocking the tech company's buses from leaving the stops. Google employees got so disturbed, some of them even called this a hate crime.

But, these protests actually produced a REAL BENEFIT:

On January 21, 2014, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (also known as MUNI)  imposed a fee of $1 per day for each public stop used by a private company. This fee was expected to raise $1.5 million a year and was the
largest the agency could impose without a vote from San Francisco residents! Then in February, Google donated $6.8 million to the transit agency to provide free public transit for low-income children in San Francisco.

It's interesting that both the local government and Google here were influenced by the protestors, unlike other protests we've seen in the past, who get ignored or even fined.