UPDATE: Union organizer shouts down protesters as they block private Google shuttle

A Google employee shouts down a private shuttle protester on Valencia and 24th streets this morning.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Protesters blocked a private Google shuttle on Valencia street today, decrying private shuttle's use of public bus stops without paying fees or fines.

The group of 20 or so neon-yellow vested protesters called themselves the "San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency." The company doesn't pay San Francisco a dime to use the Muni stops -- fines that private auto drivers pay regularly.

UPDATE 3:58pm: Just how does a story go from breaking, to verification, to "holy shit it's all over the internet now?" Here's our interview with Fake Google Employee Max Alper, and our recount of how it all went down: http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/12/09/whyd-you-do-it-we-ask-fake-google-employee-max-bell-alper

UPDATE 12:32pm: Various tips have streamed in that this shout-out was staged. Protest organizer Leslie Dreyer talked to us on the phone and verified that this person's identity was Max Bell Alper, a union organizer from Oakland. This person was not a Google employee, and Dreyer was not able to verify if Alper was there in the morning with the group of 20-30 protesters. The Guardian is attempting to contact Alper for comment. Dreyer said she, as an organizer, was unaware that the "performance" had been planned. We are following this as it develops.

UPDATE 1:06pm: Within an hour of our original post, the Guardian learned that Max Bell Alper, a union organizer with Unite Here Local 2850 was the man shouting down Google bus protesters earlier this morning. We asked Alper what motivated him to impersonate a Google employee.

"This is political theater to demonstrate what is happening to the city. It's about more than just the bus. These are enormous corporations that are investing in this community. These companies, like Google, should be proud of where they're from and invest in their communities," he said.

When asked if he intentiionally intended to deceive media, he replied "People are talking all over the country about what's happening in San Francisco (referring to evictions and displacement). That's the debate we need to have here. The more we talk about it, the more we think about it, the more we're going to see the tech companies need to contribute."

 Alper said that he did not intend to engage in theater before going to the protest, but when there made the decision, "spontaneously," to stage the argument. When he maintained his story that this was political theater, we again asked why he did not verify his name at the protest itself -- and only after the story blew up in national and local media.

"This was improv political theater," he said.

Original post follows:

The SFMTA has a pilot plan in the works to regulate private use of public bus stops.

Though the private shuttles were the crux of the day's protest, the heart of the fight is over gentrification. As the tech revolution in SF leads to rising rents and longtime San Franciscans are being displaced.

In the video, a union organizer who hopped off the bus shouts down Erin McElroy, staging an argument with a protester who also heads the eviction mapping project. "How long have you lived in this city?" McElroy asked him. He shouted back "Why don't you go to a city that can afford it? This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job."

"What kind of fucking city is this?" he shouted, and then walked off. He mentioned repeatedly that he couldn't get to work because the bus was blocked, and did exit the bus (indicated he was a Google employee), but the Guardian (nor a nearby Al Jazeera reporter) could not verify his job title or name. If anyone has any tips as to the identity of this man, please contact us at news@sfbg.com. 

(UPDATE 12:12 PM -- The Guardian amended the headline to reflect our story more accurately, that though this man exited the bus and claimed he was late for work, we have not yet verified his employment at Google)

We'll have more on this story later in the day, for now, check out footage from the protest.)


Went to a crappy state school at my own expense. Did two unpaid internships and worked at coffee shops to pay bills. Got an entree-level job at a tech company. Applied and got hired by Google.

Generalizations are sloppy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

Congratz, your one of the problems in this country. People who stand up pull up their boot straps work to get where you want to be in life. Life is full of people who pay their own way and work for a good company.

But now we have parents that no longer say:

"Look see what he did? See how he pulled himself up and made a good future for themselves."

Now we have parents that say:

"Look see what he did? See how he trampled all over everyone else and pushed people out of college so they could go. Stepped all over these other people by doing an unpaid internship to get a foot in the door. See how he help everyone else back."

Thats the world we live in today.

Posted by CDnDenver on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Remember when the world used to make sense and an honest day's pay was all one clowntroll asked for an honest day's a-trollin" ?

Pepp'ridge Fahm remembahs!!!!!!!!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

I did a tour of duty in the military and got my GI Bill and used it to pay for a degree at Cal. Now I work at Google also.

I got food stamps when I was a kid and lived in public housing and went to the crappy CA public schools.

But I guess these protestors want to kick me out of town too.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

Keep thinking that. I know people with high-school degrees who are employed at Google. These are super-nerds who started programming before they probably started walking (joke, people); but they are damn good at what they do, and they are at Google. I even know one guy who basically grew up homeless (being shuttled between mom and dad who were divorced and poor). He just immersed himself into coding, the only thing he could do to ease his pain. He's now working at Google.

Just because _you_ wasted your youth smoking weed and playing hackey-sack, it doesn't mean you are entitled to look down upon those who worked hard and did something with their lives.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

Every single person who works at google
was a starving ethiopian immigrant child that constructed it's own google bus to take it to school every day, uphill there and back thru 18 feet of snow that was on fire.
They worked hard, shat into their own bootstraps, and they worked hard to earn every penny that google stole from the city of San Francisco by using public infrastructure without paying.
Did I mention that they were self starting hard workers that made their own bootstraps before pulling themselves up with them?

Posted by The Hoebblin Love Child of Smaug on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

Yeah, that's how I got to work at Google.

Oh no, wait, I had to bust my ass in a public high school, work a job and study like crazy through four years at a top engineering university, do TWO grad degrees, the second of which I'll be paying off *until I retire*, and also work for 15 years in the industry. Oh, and about 3% of people who do interview get hired. Yeah, guess this was just handed to me.

Don't talk about what you don't know. There's lots of valid criticisms about Google, but the idea that it's somehow easy to get and hold a job there in comparison to all kinds of other high-end careers (law / banking / doctor / vc / actuary / real estate / whatever) that almost all these people are smart enough to have had as options, is ridiculous.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

I'm sure some people fit that description of privilege. But lots of us don't. I was raised by lower-middle class immigrants, went to a state university (not UC), and was able to get good jobs through hard work despite having to compete with Stanford and Berkeley graduates. Also, I am my parents' retirement ticket. I'm very sympathetic to the issues at hand, but I certainly did not win any lottery to get to Google.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Dude. I grew up in Eastern Europe. Worked 80-hour weeks for 3 years after undergrad in local University. Took a loan to finish masters in Sweden. Then spent five years to finish PhD in Top10 school in the US. I joined Google and I can tell you that folks around me are not with dissimilar stories. I'm yet to meet someone who I'd consider having a spoiled childhood.

I get an insanely huge salary now, but was eating peanuts back at home and during my studies. I can understand frustration with growing gap between those who have income and those who don't. I don't know how to solve it, but just pretending that Googlers are "spoiled children" will not help.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

I'm not from a snobby school, I'm from a state university, and I paid my way myself with the help of student loans and working two jobs. I'm also female and non-white, and worked my way up through a largely white-male-dominated industry--particularly in my line of work. I grew up in a tiny town of 2000 people, and I received exactly one scholarship of $600 a semester. I worked hard, and graduated with straight As.

I have twelve years of actual real-world experience in my field (after college--if you count before college, you're looking at closer to twenty), on top of my degree. I'm far from a kid. I'm pretty sure, out of most of the tech companies around me, that Google is by far the least snobby. I don't feel any more important than anyone else. I'm just trying to work a regular job. Have a good day.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

I have also pulled my self up by my own bootstraps, while eating only roach flavored ramen so that I could achieve the American Dream™, just like all these other COMPLETELY TRUE tales of ordinary folks, not public relations stories designed to beat back the growing wave of disgust and anger at what Google and other billion dollar companies are doing to our community.
Corporations destroy our economy and our community, avoiding taxes and offshoring billions of dollars in profits while hiding behind their employees like human shields.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

The thing about people who work at internet companies is that they know how to use the internet. I received a link to this story from my wife, a Google employee. It's been bouncing around internally for hours now.

Googlers and techies are human beings too, many of whom are smarting from years of criticism. You think out of 30,000 employees there's not a couple of people who can take a few minutes out of their day to shoot out a rebuttal?

If you are disgusted by the actions of corporations take them to court or the IRS, don't hate on their employees, who are just working a day job like everyone else.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

change the job your in.
If you work in PR
then cry us a jar
full of sweet PR tears.

Posted by Public Relations for Google posing as misunderstood chumps on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 1:14 am

was a starving ethiopian immigrant child that constructed it's own google bus to take it to school every day, uphill there and back thru 18 feet of snow that was on fire.
They worked hard, shat into their own bootstraps, and they worked hard to earn every penny that google stole from the city of San Francisco by using public infrastructure without paying.
Did I mention that they were self starting hard workers that made their own bootstraps before pulling themselves up with them?

Posted by Google Public Relations on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

I grew up in Russia, in a lower-than-middle-class family (mom and grandma, who combined earned maybe $15k per year). I went to a very good school there - a free school, where you have to pass exams with a pass rate of around 10% - and studied there.
After this school and a moderately-ok university (also free, though with an admission ratio of maybe 30-50%) I was qualified enough to get a job at a big Russian internet company. There and at my next job I got enough experience to get a job at Google. I went through the interviews, just like everyone else at Google has, and did well at them.
Now, after 10 years of studying programming and 5 more years of industry experience, I'm at Google. Yes, I'm getting a huge salary (so is my wife, who is also an engineer at a big internet company, also after studying 10 years, working 5 years and acing the interviews to that company), because that's the amount Google is willing to pay for my skills, which I'm very grateful for.
I am also interviewing people at Google now. The school you went to, and even prior work experience, are the last thing being looked at (maybe unless you are a world-class, internationally recognized researcher) - all that matters is how well you solve the problems at the interview. As others have pointed out, the hiring rate is just a couple of %.

I have to admit that all this wasn't exactly very hard for me, because I love what I do and it was easy and enjoyable for me to learn to be good at it.
I realize how lucky and privileged I am, and I would like to do more to support people who are not as lucky and help them reveal their potential. By observing other Googlers, I think that the vast majority of us feel the same way. I do not know a single Googler who would behave in the way the actor guy behaved. Tons of Googlers do a lot more than I do, which frankly makes me feel a little ashamed of myself.

I just would like you to understand that you have a very distorted image of what kinds of people Googlers actually are. Please adjust your views according to what I said, and according to what other Googlers in this thread said.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

Rather then telling us what good and smart people Googlers are, why won't some of you work with the housing justice movement and other longtime community- based organizations to help solve some of the problems this city is facing, problems that you're affluence and indifferent are helping to create. If you're all such giving problem-solvers, it shouldn't take blocking your bus or using viral videos to get you to engage with the community that you've chosen to be a part of. That's the frustration driving this, the gap between words and deeds. You say you're good people, smart people who want to help? Prove it.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 8:03 am

To fix the housing cost problems in San Francisco, there is one solution: start approving development proposals. All of them. High, middle, and low. The more $1M/unit high rises are built, the more wealthy people will live there and the fewer wealthy people will be bidding up existing construction in other parts of the city.

The more housing there is, the lower rents will be. Period. So stop objecting to development projects that don't make the kind of housing you want to live in. Because when you do, you make sure that the people who would have lived in those units are instead competing with you for the places you do want to live.

Posted by Ross on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 11:48 am

The reality is that many of the new tech workers are not part of nor particularly interested in the existing community. The San Francisco Bay Area is a place with high paying jobs for young, educated people with certain skills and good (albeit overpriced) dining, drinking and entertainment options for their seemingly limited free time. That's it. San Francisco as a refuge for outcasts, exiles and free thinkers is of little interest to them, except as a museum piece.

Rather than assimilate to the existing communities (especially in our beseiged working class districts), they are displacing them with their own insular, more exclusive and probably transitory community.

Let's see if they can meet Jones' challenge.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 7:45 am

My mom and her family used to live in San Francisco until they were displaced by a citizenry that judged them by their race and the country that they had left behind more than two decades before. In 1942, they were moved, with only a few of their possessions, to the Tanforan Racetrack (now a poor excuse for a mall) before being shipped off to the Utah desert where she lost three years of her life enduring frozen winters and searing summers behind the barbed wire.

That's displacement, American style, not this rent's too high BS.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

Which is a lot better than many other Americans (blacks, Native Americans etc) who experienced worse got, so quit bitching. When do you stop expecting to get rich off your parent's suffering? Manzanar closed a long time ago.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

Exactly my point. The Native Americans got displaced, American style. And people nowadays are complaining because they can't afford rent in one of the most crowded cities in the country. Stop whining about your first world problems.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

40 years later after many concentration camp prisoners were long dead and after losing their property.

Still waiting for an apology for slavery. DC has a holocaust museum for victims of European atrocities, but none for our home grown holocausts of slavery and Native American genocide. The Native American museum on the national mall is more Disneyland than actual history. And no slavery museum at all.

At least there are historical plaques here in Japantown about the indefensible treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. You have to look hard to see them though.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 9:49 pm
Posted by Ann on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

I'm a military brat who paid for my own degree at the University of Cincinnati by co-op, part time jobs, and a TA/RA post my senior year. I'm fairly certain the name of my alma mater had anything to do with my getting hired since UC isn't a top-ranked school and I worked in software for 15 years before being hired at Google. As for caring about the snobby school: sitting near me are graduates of University of Washington, Stonybrook, GWU, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology... and of those, I only knew about the UW attendees because of the occasional mention of sports that comes up. I didn't know where anyone else went to school until I asked as part of writing this response. We don't care where people go to school. We care about being amazing problem solvers, being self-motivated, wanting to make the world better, etc. Hope this helps.

Posted by Ross on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 11:42 am

That's it pal.
You're sick and you're gonna die. Do you have the right to live?
Only if you can afford it.
You can't afford to live, so you can't live.
Have a nice time in libertarian capitalist heaven, wearing your barfbag halo.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

Oh god, Dripping with entitlement yourself.

So you've won the life lottery of getting to live in San Francisco even though you can't afford it, thanks to government programs and market distorting rules, such as rent control, and this makes you believe that you have the right to say who else gets to live here, even though they are willing and capable of paying the full price for it. Your childish territorialism is utterly sociopathic.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

They are blocking the street. Google should sue the city police for allowing citizens to willfully break the law.

Posted by FuckSF on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

Ok. Right after SF sues Google for using a public city bus stop for their private busses.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

there is no need for miscreants to get involve and disrupt peoples' lives.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

they shouldn't have ignored this problem for years while it got worse and worse.
If you don't approve of civil disobedience, then move to China or Russia.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

You do realize that part of "civil disobedience" involves getting arrested, right?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away, away.
When danger rears it's ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes Brave Sir Robin turned about
He gallantly chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat.
Oh bravest of the brave, Sir Robin.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

On which page of your Guide To Civil Disobedience did you find this?
What is the penalty for failure to get arrested?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 1:18 am

Uninformed, incoherent people like you are exactly the problem that makes sure none of the REAL issues facing San Francisco get any attention, and that all our activism and attention is spent on childish pinatas and idiotic bus blockades. The companies that use public stops have an explicit agreement with SF MTA to do so.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

There is no "explicit agreement".
These companies have been using public property and disrupting Muni services for ordinary San Franciscans for years.
Only recently has the city been forced to recognize their lawbreaking behavior by people like the protestors in this article, which has led to the planning of meetings to address the unpaid use of public transit stops for the financial advantage of private businesses.
In the meantime, it appears that Google and other companies intend to continue their unpermitted use of public facilities while blocking Muni busses and trains.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

In San Francisco every employment sector has outpaced the national average - we point toward the economy of the future. People from around the world are gravitating here in hopes of participating. Hopefully we will become a role model for success, and not of class divisions and dissatisfaction.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez didn't research the facts for this article and posted a fake story.

Please accurately reflect the true events in this video -- a protestor, Max Bell Alper, falsely impersonated a Google employee to (through deception) win favor to their cause. You didn't research the story and blindly posted defamation just to generate page views for this site.

Google is too nice to press charges for libel and slander here, though they should. They come out looking great, shame on you.

Posted by Steve H on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

I would not say Google came out looking great - but Max Bell Alper really did us hard working union members a disservice with his antics.

I have been a union member since 1998 and I do not support deception of any kind.

Max can go suck his thumb.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

well, if you worked from home like some of us do, you wouldn't have to worry about commuting on your bus that illegally uses public facilities. get a better job where you can work from home, douchebag..

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

Any chance you're going to correct the article title, video title, video description or any of the numerous other incorrect statements in the article and associated postings?

fwiw, I'd suggest: "Professional agitator pretending to be Google employee gets in fake argument with other protestors"

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

and this my friends is how we do it in San Francisco.. get used to it, for we are coming, we will rise up against the ignorance and the greed......
Wow this disgusting human in the video, he just said it all. "I can afford to pay my rent, if you can't afford to pay yours then move to another city" Well guess what we are coming for you Mr I can pay my rent.

Posted by Veti on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

Are you another actor? Dramatizing the situation? Creating illusions that manipulate emotions?

Go join the circus.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

Honey, the dude pretending to be a Google employee was a union representative from Oakland--he isn't one of your "friends."

What is up with San Francisco that we now have to import fake protestors in from Oakland?

In any event, in the future try to post thoughtful comments instead of childish nonsense like "we are coming for you..." Girl, what are you going to do? Grab him and do his nails? Making silly pseudo-threats just make you look like a chump, and it makes it easier for other people to not take any of this seriously.

The issues are serious and making silly fake threats just cheapens the public discussion about them.

Posted by Chris on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

You can have the whole cast of Les Miserables out there and pretend to have a revolution and pat yourselves on the back about how you had really stuck it The Man.

I bet The Guardian would even run a story about it.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

Very interesting to watch this conflict (speaking about the general conflict between new tech workers and more established residents) as an outsider. I'm struck by the tech worker's lack of empathy and humility. But I also wonder, is this the right path towards resolution from the protesters?

After having read a great article (http://eamonka.com/2013/11/01/some-troubling-demographic-facts-about-san...) I find it interesting that these protests are only now happening. It seems as though the african-american community in San Francisco has been marginalized since the 1980's. Also, I'm not sure "gentrification" is even the correct term for what's happening now, as most of the people losing their housing to tech workers are actually white (and widely middle class).

Guess I'm just glad to live in Portland...

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:12 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Yup, I bet we're not going to get much more coverage about this from the SFBG since it doesn't fit their narrative. Probably just a meek retraction buried deep inside (look at how lamely they "fixed" the headline).

Good job protestors. In 2 minutes you made Google look great and yourselves look super petty.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

Yup, I bet we're not going to get much more coverage about this from the SFBG since it doesn't fit their narrative. Probably just a meek retraction buried deep inside (look at how lamely they "fixed" the headline). Your headline still implies he had something to do with Google, whereas he was actually trespassing.

Good job protestors. In 2 minutes you made Google look great and yourselves look super petty.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

Progressives who are live and let live should run the city so that we know who to hate.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

Arrest the bus blockers and charge them with kidnaping

Posted by Claptrap on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

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