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Protesters block Google and Apple buses, vandalize one

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Tensions flared Friday as activists in San Francisco and Oakland blocked buses ferrying tech workers to their jobs in Silicon Valley. One bus was vandalized.

This was the second wave of protests this month targeting the buses.

San Francisco is split between young tech workers and those who say they are being pushed out of a city they can no longer afford.

Apple, Facebook, Google and other major Silicon Valley companies deploy shiny fleets of unmarked coaches equipped with air conditioning, plush seats and wireless Internet access to ease the commutes of their workers.

The buses, which use public bus stops to pick up and drop off their passengers, have become a symbol of a growing and increasingly ugly class war here.

More and more people believe that the vast wealth being amassed by the industry is not spilling over into the community. Instead, critics say, wealthy tech workers are driving up the cost of living and squeezing out middle-class families, small businesses, artists and intellectuals.

The Bay Area Council -- which represents Bay Area businesses, including shuttle operators -- said 30 companies operate the buses. The shuttles make a total of 4,000 stops across the region each weekday, taking cars off the congested roads, the group said. The shuttles use public bus stops but are working with San Francisco to set up a fee structure.

In San Francisco, a bus carrying Apple employees was blocked during the morning rush hour in the Mission District. Protesters said they were trying to halt evictions. It was the same corner on which a Google bus was stopped by protesters Dec. 9.

Two buses picking up Google employees were stopped by protesters in Oakland, one at the MacArthur BART station. Protesters at the West Oakland BART station smashed the windows of one bus.

There were a few dozen protesters at each site, according to media reports.

“We’re here to send a message to the rich tech companies that their business has ramifications and consequences,” a San Francisco protester, Tony Robles, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

In an emailed statement, Google said: "We certainly don't want to cause any inconvenience to Bay Area residents." It added that Google and other companies are working with San Francisco officials on a policy for shuttles operating in the city.

San Francisco tech entrepreneur Brit Morin commented via Twitter on the vandalism. “Woah - crazy (and sad) to think about people attacking a Google bus,” she wrote.

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