Protesters in San Francisco dumped a huge pile of scooters in the street and blocked 11 tech buses — and then things got tense
- Anti-tech demonstrators in San Francisco blocked tech buses with piles of e-scooters.
- Protesters told Business Insider that they were protesting tech companies using city streets to “experiment” and city official’s increasing use of sweeps to force homeless people off the streets.
- In total, an full intersection, 11 buses, and several cars were blocked for about two hours.
Anti-tech protesters in San Francisco blocked shuttles carrying Google employees with piles of e-scooters on Thursday, in demonstrations against what activists see as the tech industry and lawmakers’ failure to address the city’s income inequality and sizable homeless population.
“What you’re seeing here is that scooters have more rights than people,” protester Chirag Bhakta told Business Insider. “Our priorities shouldn’t be people first, scooters second. We’re tried of being seen as an experimental playground for the tech industry.”
The deluge of dockless, electric scooters that have cropped up in San Francisco and other cities in recent months have drawn criticism from city officials, who were given little-to-no warning about their presence, as well as from city activists who say the scooters are a prime example of tech companies entering public spaces without getting input from residents or permission of regulators beforehand.
These scooter rental services — spearheaded by three venture-backed companies: Bird, LimeBikes, and Spin — work by allowing users to reserve a nearby scooter via a smartphone app, ride around on it for a small fee, and, at the end of the journey, leave the scooter anywhere to be claimed by the next rider.
Within weeks of their arrival in San Francisco, the city swiftly voted to regulate them. Under the new rules, only five companies with 500 scooters each will be allowed to operate in the city, and companies have to show they are making an effort to educate users on how to ride them.
To activists though, the quick action from lawmakers reflects the misplaced priorities of city officials. The fact that a solution for scooters on sidewalks was so quickly implemented — and that scooters will be allowed on sidewalks — is a slap in the face to the city’s homeless population that is being subjected to what protesters say are inhumane sweeps forcing them off the streets.
“I just want people to understand why their work day is being disrupted and why we’re here” Bhakta said. “We understand that it’s an inconvenience, but it’s not a personal attack. An inconvenience for you is an outcry from the people. I just want them to show some solidarity and empathy.”
See what the protest looked like below:
At about 8:45 am, protesters carried scooters to an intersection in San Francisco’s Mission District with the intention of blocking shuttles carrying Google employees.
Activists piled scooters in front of buses and unfurled signs that read “Techsploitation is toxic.”
To make their point that Big Tech is “toxic,” protesters dressed in white hazmat suits and masks.