Seattle Police were monitoring a duo of protesters attempting to block Microsoft corporate shuttles Monday morning on their routes to pick up tech workers living around Capitol Hill.
Police were initially called to the area around Bellevue and Pine around 8:40 AM. One witness posted to Twitter that “two masked protestors at Bellevue and Pine with a banner reading ‘gentrification stops here'” were at the scene.
The small Capitol Hill protest echoes higher profile efforts in San Francisco where the “crunchies vs. crappies” battle over gentrification has stirred debate beyond Silicon Valley and pushed the city to impose fees on the fleets of corporate shuttles that ferry workers around the city, allowing them to forego dependence on standard public transit and adding to tensions in an increasingly expensive place to live.
Seattle — and, especially, Capitol Hill — has seen increasing debate about affordability and rising rents. Thursday night, the City of Seattle is hosting a “Workforce Housing Forum” at City Hall. Monday morning’s incident happened across the street from where the old Marion Apartments were torn down to make way for a six-story apartment building about to open. A block south, the former Pinevue Apartments and Melrose building await the start of a demolition/preservation/development project that will climb to eight stories above E Pine.
The protesters were reportedly handing out these flyers. Thanks to @maguiresean for sharing the images with CHS.
In total, five buses were blocked for 45 minutes before the authorities arrived, at which point the group dispersed.
What follows below is an explanation of the action.
The Dark Lords of Microsoft
A long time ago, Microsoft was the evil empire, the dark colossus that every free-thinking engineer and programmer gravitated away from. Their hierarchical and competitive corporate culture was a nightmare to be avoided at all costs. Apple and Google frantically developed in directions that would take them away from the monopolized markets controlled by the Redmond based corporation. These competitors succeeded in breaking Microsoft’s grip on the marketplace, only to become precisely what they had been rebelling against. Google now circles Redmond like a vulture, with offices in Bothell, Kirkland, and Seattle, waiting to devour Microsoft’s corpse should it collapse.
“The situation in Capitol Hill and Ballard, two neighborhoods selected by the city government for high-density housing, is a situation that can inspire depression and dread,” the post’s author writes. “However, we are tired of falling prey to these emotions and instead make the first steps to address this very specific aspect of the Microsoft leviathan.”
Full disclosure: I worked at Microsoft for a decade before leaving in 2006 to pursue community news ventures. I also wore an anarchist symbol t-shirt a few times in middle school :)