Today, Bay Area anti-eviction activists apparently changed tactics from attacking private buses that ferry tech workers to their jobs to picketing the home of a well-known Google engineer in Berkeley.
The protesters, who posted an account on IndyBay.org, claimed that around 7 a.m. this morning they went to the home of Anthony Levandowski, an engineer who helped developed Google’s self-driving car, rang the doorbell, and held up a banner saying “Google’s Future Stops Here.”
According to the IndyBay account, they then passed out fliers throughout the neighborhood, warning Levandowski’s neighbors that he works for the defense industry and intends to build luxury condos in Berkeley. The two page flyer, which you can view here, said:
Anthony Levandowski is currently trying to create his own cyber-capitalist utopia in the great city of Berkeley…Development and surveillance go hand in hand. Implicit in Levandowski’s Garden Village is the omnipresence of surveillance in our urban environments…Surveillance and control are central to the technological future proposed by Google and other pro-tech futurists.
The two-page flyer contains Levandowski’s personal history from “growing up in affluent Marin suburb” to “[buying] a house for his wife and children near College and Ashby.” (Creepy, perhaps, but most of the information is likely available online. Levandowski has done plenty of press interviews.)
Furthermore, the activists claim they staked out Levandowski’s home to watch his comings and goings.
Preparing for the action, we watched Levandowski step out of his front door. He had Google Glasses over his eyes, carried his baby in his arm, and held a tablet with his free hand. As he descended the stairs with the baby, his eyes were on the tablet through the prism of his Google Glasses, not on the life against his chest. He appeared in this moment like the robot he admits that he is.
Gawd. I half expect to see wall-sized portraits of Soviet farmers joining forces with the proletariat to overthrow the yoke of capitalist oppression. I suppose the activists’ intention, by sharing a sliver of Levandowski’s personal life with his neighbors, is to shine klieg lights on Google’s “pervasive surveillance capabilities utilized by the NSA.”
The Bay Area activist group, whose members have remained anonymous, have shown they are not above highly invasive, violent protests. So expect more of these kinds of actions. As they said themselves: “All of you other tech companies, all of you other developers and everyone else building the new surveillance state — We’re coming for you next.” It seems this anti-tech battle, which is sadly aimed against those who aren’t even remotely causing these issues, is beginning to look beyond Google.
I am working to confirm the event actually happened — the group is not exactly a reliable narrator of the truth — and awaiting responses from Levandowski and Google. I will update this post with more information as it becomes available.
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]