A small band of demonstrators were arrested at Google headquarters Tuesday afternoon while protesting the recent repeal of Net neutrality rules. While Google itself has spoken out against the plan that many critics say threatens Internet freedom, the “Occupy Google” group that gathered outside the corporate office in Mountain View, California, called on Google to “take action and protect Net neutrality.”
The Occupy Google website and Twitter feed appeared online only Tuesday morning, but both make it clear that the demonstration was a precursor to a “day of action” on July 10 that will be coordinated with a larger protest online.
Estimates from the San Jose Mercury News suggested that fewer than two dozen people attended the protest and remained calm through the day, at one point holding a large “Protect Net Neutrality” across a plaza in front of the Google building.
— Occupy Google (@occupygoogl) June 24, 2014
— Occupy Google (@occupygoogl) June 25, 2014
“We are here to call on Google and all its employees to stand up and join us in the fight for a free and open Internet,” the group stated on its website.
The arrests began when the police advised the group to clear the premises and, when that didn’t happen, said, “Okay folks, at this point everybody here is under arrest for trespassing.” While video of the event indicates that it seemed to unfold peacefully, Twitter users using the hashtag #OccupyGoogle were upset with what they perceived as an overreaction from police.
An announcement on Occupy Google’s website makes it clear that the protest Tuesday aimed to make headlines and pressure Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and other technology behemoths (including Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft) to do more to raise awareness about the sometimes dense issue of Net neutrality and Internet freedom.
“Though many of us have concerns about the larger implications of Google’s effect on the world, as far as surveillance and ties to military technology, we are not here to protest Google,” a post explained.
“Google, with its immense power, has a social responsibility to uphold the values of the Internet. We encourage Google to engage in a serious, honest dialogue on the issue of Net neutrality and stand up with us in support of an Internet that is free from censorship, discrimination and access fees.”
The group demands that Google “blackout their entire website for a day, replacing it with a link to petitions and the FCC comment page,” “add a link to their homepage to inform visitors and connect them to petitions online,” and “create their own creative way to connect their users to this issue and how to fight back.”
This protest follows a similar demonstration last month outside the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, where protesters called Chairman Tom Wheeler to halt a proposal that would make it possible for Internet service providers to charge content companies (Netflix or Amazon, for example) more money to provide fast and reliable Internet service. Like the protest at Google Tuesday, the Washington protest was sparsely attended, but Kevin Zeese, a Baltimore-based lawyer, told the Washington Post the small group was passionate.
“When we’re out passing out literature; people almost always take these materials,” he said last month. “They say: ‘Thank goodness you’re out here. We’re glad you’re here. We’re with you, and we hope they’re listening to you.’ We had some employees come out specifically to shake our hands.”