Protesters in San Francisco have blocked streets with electric scooters and let off smoke bombs, in a demonstration aimed at the city’s handling of its large tech companies compared with the poor.
Participants in the event, held at the corner of 24th Street and Valencia Street, in San Francisco’s central Mission District, held placards carrying messages like “Techsploitation is Toxic” and “Sweep Tents not Tech”, in the latest fissure between residents and the increasing number of startups that have made a home in the city.
The protesters’ chief concern was that city officials have been moving homeless residents on to make room for electric scooters. One protester, Chirag Bhatra, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s absurd scooters have more rights than the homeless do.”
San Francisco is already one of America’s most expensive places to live: the average cost of a first month’s rent and deposit is just under $4,000, and the cost of living is 21.9% higher than the rest of the nation. Yet the city has the third-highest level of income inequality behind Bridgeport, CT, and New York City.
When Google and Apple began running commuter buses for their employees only, in 2013, protesters blocked routes, arguing that the companies were creating a two-tiered local economy. The latest campaign targets electric scooters, which have become a sudden craze after three companies, Lime, Bird and Spin, left hundreds of scooters on sidewalks across the city this March, without warning police or legislators.
Bird recently won a $150m funding round, which valued the Santa Monica firm at a billion dollars.
“Scootergeddon”, as some locals have coined the influx, has been met with considerable opposition. Many have trashed scooters and posted the results to social media. Lime’s scooter alarm warns users that they must unlock the vehicle or it will call the police, while homeless residents have allegedly taken to stripping and hotwiring scooters for their own use.