No charges for Google protestors, but the fight will march on

    The rallying chants broke through the quiet morning: “Up up with public housing, down down with Google.”

    Vas Kumar, a supporter of the #Google8, the eight people arrested for chaining themselves to chairs to protest Google’s planned development in San Jose, called out the tech titan through a megaphone in front of the Santa Clara County building early Monday morning.

    Her chants were echoed by dozens of protestors as they marched toward the San Jose Hall of Justice with the eight individuals who had a court hearing for their arrest at the Dec. 4 City Council meeting on Google’s expansion to San Jose.

    But when they arrived at the courthouse, their names were not on the schedule. No charges had been filed against them, something that Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen told San José Spotlight on Friday.

    That wasn’t the case though for the #Google8.

    “We received automated text messages to be here at 9 a.m.” said Andrew Barney, one of the eight people arrested. “It’s unfortunate that that is the situation. For folks who are charged with crimes, there’s really poor communication. A lot of people may face bench warrants because of this uncertainty.”

    Court spokesperson Benjamin Rada said he’s aware of the existence of a notification system, but was unsure if it via voicemail or text. He said the system is operated by the county, independent of the court system. That may be why Barney and the rest of the #Google8 thought they were going to be arraigned on Monday.

    San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he respects and agrees with Rosen not filing charges and that the decision to arrest versus the decision to prosecute were, “made with different factors in mind.”

    “SJPD properly responded to the multiple-hour disruption that occurred during the December 4th City Council Meeting, which was preventing meaningful participation by other members of the public who came to hear the deliberations and offer their views at the podium” Liccardo said.

    Protesters on Monday continued their march down West Hedding Street, declaring “Google, Google, you can try, we won’t let you gentrify.” They said the protest wasn’t about the potential court hearing.

    For Sandy Perry, it was about those that could be displaced if Google builds a megacampus in downtown San Jose, bringing an estimated 20,000 jobs by 2035.

    “If 20,000 people come into San Jose at the top of the housing market and no new housing is built, the impact is to push 20,000 people out of the bottom of the housing market,” he said. “They’ll be pushed out either into the streets or into Modesto, Merced and have to commute for two hours. The answer is not displacement.”

    Perry added that the city is on record as being against displacement, yet the tech boom puts stress on the housing market.

    “Their actions continue to increase displacement,” he said.

    San Jose leaders insisted the city would address displacement concerns ahead of the Dec. 4 meeting in which the council unanimously approved selling public land to Google.

    “The city has taken a variety of policy actions to help prevent and address displacement, and other anti-displacement policies and tools are under consideration,” according to a city memo signed by Deputy City Manager Kim Walesh.

    Barney, however, said his group will continue to put pressure on the tech giant until they do “the right thing,” noting that the company recently dropped development plans in other areas amid public opposition and pressure.

    Barney is referring to Google deciding not to develop in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin. Activists fought the potential gentrification of the neighborhood until Google announced in October that it would donate the space to nonprofit groups to use free of charge.

    “We’re asking them to donate this land to an organization called a community land trust,” Barney said.

    A community land trust, according to Barney, is a nonprofit that owns the land and preserves it for affordable housing. The people living in the housing then are on the board of directors.

    “The people who live in the units have control over their own living situation,” Barney said, “the amount of rent they’re paying and the conditions they’re living in. We think this is what real democracy looks like.”

    Contact Grace Hase at [email protected] or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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