A video of a San Francisco man berating a union protester went viral earlier today, but it was quickly determined to have been a hoax perpetrated by another union organizer.
Protesters in San Francisco blocked a private Google shuttle to draw attention to the fact that, unlike private drivers, passengers on these luxurious, privately operated Google shuttles don’t pay to use the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority stops.
In the video, a man claiming to be a Google employee stood in front of the bus in order to confront the protesters. One of them, Erin McElroy, asked “How long have you lived in this city?” The man acknowledged that he has lived there for “six months,” then responded with questions of his own.
“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.”
When McElroy said that she’s lived here longer than “six months,” and that she wouldn’t move and allow the Google shuttle free passage, the man shouted “What kind of f**king city is this?” three times, before walking away.
He refused to identify himself or where he worked, likely because the alleged Google employee was, in fact, Max Bell Alpers, a local union organizer with ties to the Occupy movement.
Despite the fact that hoax quickly unraveled, the issue of gentrification it was intended to call attention to is significant. These luxury Google shuttles are a symbol of simmering culture war in the city between its long-tenured residents and recent arrivals, many of whom are in the technology industry, like the man in this video.
As Tim Redmond wrote on the San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s Politics blog earlier this year, there is “reason why the logic of the Google bus — it’s better to have a single luxury vehicle haul all those people to work than have them all drive cars — doesn’t register with a lot of us. They’re too good for Caltrain. They’re too good for Muni.”
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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