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Demonstrators Rally Outside Google Conference, Call for End to Israel Contracts

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A group of people wearing masks and holding drums walk down the street.
People play drums and chant during a protest outside of Google's offices in Mountain View on May 14, 2024. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated Tuesday morning outside Google’s annual developer conference in Mountain View to demand the tech giant end its contracts with Israel in light of that nation’s deadly bombardment of Gaza.

Some of the protesters blockaded one of the main entrances to the conference, held at the Shoreline Amphitheater, with their bodies while holding a banner that read “Stop Fueling Genocide,” while others held signs that read “Google Cloud Rains Blood.”

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The groups represented several local organizations, including the No Tech for Genocide Coalition, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Bay Area Palestine Solidarity and the Arab Resource Organizing Center. Protesters played drums and chanted phrases including “Free Palestine” and “We want justice, you say how. End the siege on Gaza now.” The attendees of the conference were redirected to another entrance down the street as the protest continued.

At the center of the protest is Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion cloud computing and artificial intelligence contract between Google, Amazon and Israel, which Google has previously claimed is not supporting Israel’s weapons or intelligence operations.

However, protesters point to recent media reports indicating Israel’s military does make wide use of Google’s technologies and that the company has sought to extend its contracts with Israel.

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Roni Zeiger of Mountain View is a doctor and tech worker who came out to protest against his former employer. Zeiger worked at Google from 2006 to 2012 on projects that aimed to use the company’s technology to improve public health, a goal he said he still supports.

“But what’s happening today is exactly the opposite of that. Google’s technologies, along with Amazon’s, as part of Project Nimbus, are being used to actively harm people in Palestine, and I don’t think that’s okay,” Zeiger said.

The demonstrations are the latest in a string of actions demanding Google and other tech companies end ties with Israel altogether. In April, the company fired about 50 employees who were said to be involved in sit-ins that violated its internal policies and disrupted operations at offices in New York and Sunnyvale.

Zeiger said he also felt motivated to demonstrate in recognition of Google employees fired after taking part in those protests.

Several people hold up a blue banner with a Google icon over an eye that reads "No Tech for Apartheid."
People hold up a banner that reads “No Tech for Apartheid” during a protest outside Google’s Gradient Canopy building in Mountain View on May 14, 2024. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

“We have a responsibility for each other and all the things that we’re inventing together to make sure that we are using them for good,” he said.

Google and Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ariel Koren, a former Google employee who worked in marketing, and who participated in Tuesday’s protest, said she was ousted after speaking out against Project Nimbus in 2022. She said the company told her the role she was being moved to Brazil and gave her less than a month to go or be terminated.

“When I was ousted from the company, they were trying to be subtle about it,” Koren said. “Now they are so desperate that they are not even trying to be sneaky. And the reason they’re doing that is because they are realizing that the chilling effect that they’re trying to create across the industry and across their workforce is not working.”

Wassim Hage, a spokesperson for the Arab Resource Organizing Center, said actions like Tuesday’s demonstrations fit into the larger context of organized labor, working people, and students around the country pushing back against militarization and what he called Israeli apartheid.

“The mass popular support from people of all walks of life for all these folks taking action at their institutions, at their places of work, I think it has tremendous possibility to make big impacts over the course of years,” he said.

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