You don’t want to win the McMansion award from protesters

Some antitech protestors recently handed out a McMansion award in San Francisco:

Wearing a pig mask and sequined suit jacket, Amy Gilgan stood outside of Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday night to accept the McMansion award at the second annual Crappys on behalf of Jack Halprin, a Google lawyer, landlord and frequent target of San Francisco’s antitech ire.

In sparkles and sneakers, technorati streamed past protesters and into the concert hall for the eighth annual Crunchies Awards, the supposed Oscars of Silicon Valley. Few turned their heads to witness the sidewalk satire. Investor Ron Conway, who last year stood on the Crunchies stage and offered his sympathy to the protesters, buzzed by a group of taxi drivers rallying against Uber. Evening news crews scaled back their coverage.

This year the pig masks were new, but the message was old. The verve of the antitech demonstrators felt diminished, and even they noted that the turnout was low.

McMansion sounds like an invasive species for the self-interested and wealthy. Some of the backstory:

Tirado said things started off  badly  as soon as Halprin bought and moved into the seven-unit building two years ago. First, Halprin forced one tenant out under owner move-in laws. Then another existing tenant was evicted,  again through the owner move-in process. Halprin told tenants that his domestic partner would be taking over the second unit. That partner, however, never materialized, according to Erin McElroy, an organizer with Eviction Free San Francisco. The affected tenant has since filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit against Halprin.

The remaining six tenants, which includes two teachers, a small child, an artist and a disabled senior, received Ellis Act eviction notifications in February of this year.

The protests continued through December. This is a big issue right now in San Francisco: in a very expensive housing market, Silicon Valley employees and companies have been perceived by some as throwing their weight around regarding properties and sending buses for workers. While this could be thought of as a more localized issue in some cities – perhaps gentrification occurring in particular neighborhoods – it is bigger than that since prices are high all over the Bay Area.

Two other quick thoughts:

1. It is interesting that we don’t hear as much about protests on this issue in New York City even though Manhattan is similarly expensive and luxury construction is booming. Perhaps the land there is being redeveloped from non-residential uses and/or fewer people are being displaced?

2. Generally, I don’t think winning an award with McMansion in the title is intended as a compliment.

More protesters taking to the highways

Protesters around the world have moved to highways where they very visibly stop traffic:

In L.A., some of those demonstrators were arrested after shutting down traffic in both directions on the 101 Freeway. Another group of protesters flummoxed traffic downtown by laying down in the intersection of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Grand Avenue.

They were not alone. Protesters took to I-95 in Providence. Highway 55 in Minneapolis. I-75 in Cincinnati. I-980 in Oakland. I-44 in St. Louis. I-35 in Dallas. And the Lincoln Tunnel and the West Side Highway in New York.

Across the nation, many of the protests that continue to simmer have moved from parks, plazas and civic centers to freeways and highways. The ongoing protests reflect national outrage following a grand jury decision that has vexed critics, to say nothing of the many black lives cut short in police shootings. Yet the move to the highways is something else: an evolution in the language and strategy of civil disobedience.

This isn’t just an American phenomenon:

It was late in September that protesters first took a major freeway in Hong Kong’s financial district. The protests gained critical mass more than a month after Brown’s death in Ferguson. When Hong Kong demonstrators clashed with police, they appeared to adopt the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” posture made familiar after weeks of protests in Ferguson.

This updates a post from a month ago about protestors blocking traffic in Atlanta. As noted before, this raises some interesting questions about public spaces and traffic safety. American drivers tend to like wide roads with more lanes because they think this will help them get places faster. (This is not the case on highly congested highways where simply adding lanes tend to increase the number of cars on the roads. Width does seem to matter on more normal streets where width tends to give drivers the impression they have some margin of error to go faster.) Highways tend to be some of the most empty places we have: no pedestrians, no bicycles, almost no one out of their car unless something has gone wrong. Yet, protesters blocking traffic can draw the attention of a lot of people at once both on the roads and from aerial shots that show the power even a relatively small number of people can have.

Is protesting on a highway as symbolic as some of the protests in shopping malls in the St. Louis areas? Does cutting off America’s transportation “arteries” make the same point as protesting in temples of capitalism? I’m not sure but it certainly is more unusual given the typical functions of highways.

Naperville: best place to protest in DuPage County?

On Saturday, there was a march in downtown Naperville to honor Trayvon Martin:

More than 130 people walked through downtown Naperville on Saturday to honor the memory of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., in late February.

But they also wanted to give notice that racism cannot be tolerated.

“We’re walking for Trayvon and everybody who’s been a victim of violence,” said Kelly Ingram, of Naperville, who helped organize the rally and a one-mile walk…

Word of the Naperville event circulated via Facebook and other social media…

Naperville’s nearby carillon tolled as the racially diverse crowd gathered under bright blue skies at Centennial Beach on West Jackson Avenue. Many wore hoodies, as Martin had when he was slain.

Considering the vocal discussion of and reactions to this case, I’m not surprised. But I was interested to see that this took place in downtown Naperville. This march comes not long after an Occupy Naperville group met in and marched in downtown Naperville. Why all this activity in Naperville and not in other suburban communities? I think there are two big reasons for this:

1. Naperville has a thriving downtown. Thus, a protest group is going to be seen by a decent number of people who happen to be in Naperville for shopping, eating, walking about the Riverwalk, or going to the library. Just standing on one of the busier street corners, like Main and Jefferson, is going to draw attention. In contrast, many suburban communities don’t have this kind of well-populated public space. While other suburbs may have quaint downtowns or thriving strip malls and/or shopping areas, these places aren’t going to have the same kind of foot traffic as downtown Naperville.

2. Naperville is a wealthy, mainly white, and fairly conservative/Republican community so protesters may believe protesting about issues such as race and class will particularly cause a stir. In this line of reasoning, having a protest in Aurora or Elgin or Joliet or Oak Park or another large suburb might not be so appealing as compared to going to Naperville and pushing the envelope further.

Let’s say that from this point forward Naperville does continue to draw protesters who are attracted by a popular downtown and a wealthy community: how will Naperville respond?

Tactics of Egyptian protesters in a pamphlet

News from Egypt is trickling out. The Atlantic has translated part of a pamphlet that supposedly was distributed to protesters in recent days. While it is unclear how many protesters might have these, it is an interesting look into the tactics of protests and social movements.

Some thoughts:

1. There is information here on the broader goals of the movement plus more specific information about how to combat riot police. The end goal of the protests is to take over government buildings.

2. The final translated portion has some warnings about not letting the pamphlet fall into the wrong hands, particularly not posting it on the Internet or sharing it through Twitter. (Since the Internet has been shut down in Egypt, this may not be an issue now.)

2a. Could we get to a point where Internet usage is considered a human right? Should governments be able to ever shut it down or restrict access?

2b. If The Atlantic can get its hands on this, surely the Egyptian government already has.

3. This pamphlet must have taken some time to put together. Where did it come from and who put the time into it? This suggests people were preparing for this moment.

4. It must have been an interesting editorial discussion regarding which portions of this to translate in order “to balance the historic nature of the document and protest with the safety of protesters. Publishing this excerpt was the compromise at which we arrived.”