Business

‘F*** the yuppies': Ferguson solidarity march turns anti-tech in San Francisco

San Francisco held its own demonstration in front of a city police department in solidarity with the protestors of Ferguson, Missouri, and the demonstration quickly devolved into an anti-tech gentrification rant. The fallout from Ferguson influences the nation as a whole, and it may likewise fuel the battle between tech and local residents in San Francisco.

“Fuck the yuppies,” chanted the group, led by an organizer with a megaphone, as police peacefully escorted them down the very street where activists protested Google’s private charter buses earlier this year.

Primarily, the demonstration was against the militarization of police departments and was inspired by the city-wide protests in Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown. But why protest in front of a small San Francisco police station?

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“They’re just as complicit as the Ferguson police department,” one demonstrator told me. “They’re killing babies!” shouted another demonstrator at side-walk bystanders.

As the group, which numbered about 150, headed through the Mission District, it became clear that there was a strong connection between the recent uproar over tech gentrification and the anti-police sentiment of the crowd.

As the crowd strode past one of the very few new housing developments on Mission Street, the organizer switched from “Fuck the yu-ppies!” to “That is ug-ly!” The Mission District has undergone a housing crunch thanks to the influx of young tech workers and others who work in the San Francisco Bay Area but want to enjoy the hip neighborhoods of urbanized living.

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As a result, housing (rents and ownership) is no longer affordable for many of those living in San Francisco. The simplest solution is to build more housing, but area city councils, in San Francisco and beyond, have routinely rejected increased development.

Some protestors don’t want to see the quaint three-story neighborhoods become like Manhattan; others tell me what they want is 100 percent affordable housing reserved for existing residents before any new techies can move in.

In the Mission, the confluence of a tech-driven economic boom and political gridlock has caused sky-high rents and increasing gentrification of a strongly minority neighborhood.

Many of the protestors alluded to deaths of minority residents caused by Bay Area police, which include Oscar Grant in Oakland, whose death was portrayed in the Hollywood movie Fruitvale. The protesters argued that the very presence of white people has caused aggressive activity toward minorities in the neighborhood.

“There’s also been increased policing of people of color in the Mission as part of an effort to clean up the Mission for people with wealth and people with money to make it more comfortable for them who aren’t comfortable living amongst populations,” another demonstrator told me.

It’s hard to tell how representative these protesters are of San Francisco’s population. A University of California, San Francisco study found that a majority of San Franciscans think tech is good for the economy (68 percent), and there was more agreement than disagreement that the city should encourage tech companies to move to the city [PDF].

The city’s chief economist also finds the tech boom has been generally good for the economy, with wages rising 2 percent faster than inflation.

But it’s clear the most vocal elements of the anti-gentrification movement are part of a class that feels outnumbered, whether they be wealthy technologists or the police. If the protests in Ferguson turn into a movement, or influence policy around the country, it may inflame the current anti-gentrification movement in San Francisco at the same time.


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20 comments
Anthony J. Mitchell
Anthony J. Mitchell

Anti tech? I am waiting for the day I can put nano machines in my body to repair damage cells, kill viruses, heal quickly, and control devices remotely.

Scott Lohmann
Scott Lohmann

Only in San Francisco.  At some point, down the road, perhaps these jobs and companies WILL leave San Francisco.  Then let's see these protestors, and haters of all things tech, pick up that heavy tax burden that these same companies and people bank roll.  Be careful haters, envy never ever wins.

Santiago Archila
Santiago Archila

FYI, the study you link is a poll from University of San Francisco (USF), not University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  UCSF is a medical school and medical research graduate school.

Erik Peterson
Erik Peterson

I bet they used Twitter/Facebook to organize the march...

James Sensenbrenner
James Sensenbrenner

First of all, the survey the author cited was from a study at USF, not the medical school UCSF.

Second of all, it seems pretty evident that these protestors are not native Missionites, as they seem to have no sense of history, as the Mission was previously a site on an ongoing turf war between rival gangs. This was a far worse environment for Hispanic youth to be living in that today.

Fareed Ansari
Fareed Ansari

It doesn't take much for the Google Haters to turn any function into a stupidity session.

Glenn Darwis
Glenn Darwis

Being a native of the Bay and being exposed to tech I see both sides of the issue. Yes, SF is different but in both good and bad ways. I might not like the Mission being gentrified in some aspects. I like wall art and hole-in-wall taquerias. But do I like the Mexican gangs in that area with the whole North/South or red/blue thing? Nope. Bring on gentrification in that regards. Change is difficult.

Swag Valance
Swag Valance

Political Activism 101: the best way to kill off a political protest movement is to fractionalize its message with countless pet issues.