News

Vigil in East Palo Alto protests Amazon, Facebook policies

Protesters say policies will lead to gentrification, criminalization of their community

Chants of "Jobs for EPA!" and "Hey hey, ho ho, racial profiling has got to go!" rang out Thursday night in front of 2100 University Ave. in East Palo Alto, where Amazon.com plans to occupy 200,000 square feet of offices and add 1,300 employees. Some drivers honked their approval, while others, some looking down from double-decker bus seats, remained silent.

A group of more than 50 people assembled on the corner of Donohoe Street and University Avenue for a vigil to protest policies of Amazon and Facebook, which they said would lead to gentrification and criminalization of their communities.

The protest focused on the East Palo Alto City Council's decision to waive its locals-first hiring policy for Amazon, and the Menlo Park City Council's current consideration to allow Facebook to pay for increased police services in eastern Menlo Park.

Facebook has offered to pay $9.1 million over five years to enable the Menlo Park Police Department to expand its services in eastern Menlo Park. The money would go toward establishing a new police unit in the city's "Bayfront" or M-2 area, roughly bordered by the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, U.S. 101 and Marsh Road. The contribution would cover the costs of salaries, benefits and equipment for about five new officers. Population growth of workers and residents in that area of the city is expected to require adding up to 17 new officers for the new unit to maintain the current ratio of people to officers in the city, according to the Menlo Park Police Department.

Event organizer JT Faraji of East Palo Alto said that Facebook's offer will "(aid) in the criminalization" of his community because he thinks increased policing will lead to racial profiling.

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The protest was organized by a group called the "Real Community Coalition," which, according to Mr. Faraji, is made up of residents and is unaffiliated with other nonprofits or politicians, which may, he said, have their own interests or conflicts.

Amazon

The East Palo Alto City Council on March 22 voted to allow Amazon to waive the city's hiring policy, which mandates that businesses in the city hire 30 percent of their employees from among city residents, or demonstrate a good-faith effort to do so. Instead, Amazon agreed to create a job center staffed by an employment specialist for 10 years.

According to East Palo Alto city staff, Amazon's leasing the space was contingent on removing the hiring requirement. Amazon already occupies 80,000 square feet of office space at East Palo Alto's University Circle offices.

A number of East Palo Alto residents at the protest said the City Council caved too easily at Amazon's behest, and that it was unfair – and possibly discriminatory – for Amazon to simply assume that East Palo Alto residents wouldn't be eligible for the high-skilled tech jobs they sought to fill. Others said that Amazon's alternative approach, to start a job center and hire a job search specialist, was insufficient.

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Duane Goff, a retiree who is an East Palo Alto resident, called the measure "a little pat on the back," and named several other programs that already exist in the community to help people search for and become eligible for jobs. It's the jobs, he said, that are lacking.

Pemberton Gordon, a longtime East Palo Alto resident, said he works in tech recruiting and his wife works as an electrical engineer. He said that even if there may not be enough East Palo Alto residents who are software engineers to meet that 30 percent requirement, tech companies usually have a number of jobs that don't require special technical skills, such as sales, marketing and administrative positions.

East Palo Alto also has a coding academy, StreetCode, which several attendees said could be a potential hiring pool for Amazon, were the company to make an effort to hire locals.

David Chatman, an East Palo Alto resident and Facebook employee, said that if Amazon had followed the city's hiring policy, it would have expanded residents' access to higher-paying jobs than are currently offered in the city, many of which he said are in retail.

As a Facebook employee, he said, he has seen both the abundance of what tech jobs can offer their employees, and what the introduction of such abundance to a community can do to people who are left out. On one hand, he said, he sees himself as a fortunate member of his community for having the tech skills to work at one of these companies. On the other, he's watched family members be pushed to the cusp of displacement by rising housing costs.

He said he'd like to see such companies invest in the communities where they set up shop – not only by making grants and donating money, but by making efforts to keep locals from being displaced.

What's next

"I think there's a movement picking up," said East Palo Alto resident Ofelia Bello. Amazon's decision to come to East Palo Alto marks a turning point for the city, she said.

For so long, she said, East Palo Alto has been seen as separate from Silicon Valley. While it has experienced the pressures and stresses of added regional growth, she said, it has not necessarily reaped the benefits.

"We have a long history of being screwed over," she said. Even though Amazon is expanding in East Palo Alto, its recent action shows that it still sees East Palo Alto as separate from Silicon Valley, she said.

The coalition has not given up hope for a reversal of the East Palo Alto City Council's decision, despite a March 25 statement by East Palo Alto Mayor Larry Moody that he would "not offer a vote to rescind the decision nor recommend the Council do so."

In regard to Amazon, Ms. Bello said, "They can work with us, or we're going to clash."

Members of the Real Community Coalition said they plan to attend the East Palo Alto City Council's next meeting on April 4, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

--

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Vigil in East Palo Alto protests Amazon, Facebook policies

Protesters say policies will lead to gentrification, criminalization of their community

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 11:41 am

Chants of "Jobs for EPA!" and "Hey hey, ho ho, racial profiling has got to go!" rang out Thursday night in front of 2100 University Ave. in East Palo Alto, where Amazon.com plans to occupy 200,000 square feet of offices and add 1,300 employees. Some drivers honked their approval, while others, some looking down from double-decker bus seats, remained silent.

A group of more than 50 people assembled on the corner of Donohoe Street and University Avenue for a vigil to protest policies of Amazon and Facebook, which they said would lead to gentrification and criminalization of their communities.

The protest focused on the East Palo Alto City Council's decision to waive its locals-first hiring policy for Amazon, and the Menlo Park City Council's current consideration to allow Facebook to pay for increased police services in eastern Menlo Park.

Facebook has offered to pay $9.1 million over five years to enable the Menlo Park Police Department to expand its services in eastern Menlo Park. The money would go toward establishing a new police unit in the city's "Bayfront" or M-2 area, roughly bordered by the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, U.S. 101 and Marsh Road. The contribution would cover the costs of salaries, benefits and equipment for about five new officers. Population growth of workers and residents in that area of the city is expected to require adding up to 17 new officers for the new unit to maintain the current ratio of people to officers in the city, according to the Menlo Park Police Department.

Event organizer JT Faraji of East Palo Alto said that Facebook's offer will "(aid) in the criminalization" of his community because he thinks increased policing will lead to racial profiling.

The protest was organized by a group called the "Real Community Coalition," which, according to Mr. Faraji, is made up of residents and is unaffiliated with other nonprofits or politicians, which may, he said, have their own interests or conflicts.

Amazon

The East Palo Alto City Council on March 22 voted to allow Amazon to waive the city's hiring policy, which mandates that businesses in the city hire 30 percent of their employees from among city residents, or demonstrate a good-faith effort to do so. Instead, Amazon agreed to create a job center staffed by an employment specialist for 10 years.

According to East Palo Alto city staff, Amazon's leasing the space was contingent on removing the hiring requirement. Amazon already occupies 80,000 square feet of office space at East Palo Alto's University Circle offices.

A number of East Palo Alto residents at the protest said the City Council caved too easily at Amazon's behest, and that it was unfair – and possibly discriminatory – for Amazon to simply assume that East Palo Alto residents wouldn't be eligible for the high-skilled tech jobs they sought to fill. Others said that Amazon's alternative approach, to start a job center and hire a job search specialist, was insufficient.

Duane Goff, a retiree who is an East Palo Alto resident, called the measure "a little pat on the back," and named several other programs that already exist in the community to help people search for and become eligible for jobs. It's the jobs, he said, that are lacking.

Pemberton Gordon, a longtime East Palo Alto resident, said he works in tech recruiting and his wife works as an electrical engineer. He said that even if there may not be enough East Palo Alto residents who are software engineers to meet that 30 percent requirement, tech companies usually have a number of jobs that don't require special technical skills, such as sales, marketing and administrative positions.

East Palo Alto also has a coding academy, StreetCode, which several attendees said could be a potential hiring pool for Amazon, were the company to make an effort to hire locals.

David Chatman, an East Palo Alto resident and Facebook employee, said that if Amazon had followed the city's hiring policy, it would have expanded residents' access to higher-paying jobs than are currently offered in the city, many of which he said are in retail.

As a Facebook employee, he said, he has seen both the abundance of what tech jobs can offer their employees, and what the introduction of such abundance to a community can do to people who are left out. On one hand, he said, he sees himself as a fortunate member of his community for having the tech skills to work at one of these companies. On the other, he's watched family members be pushed to the cusp of displacement by rising housing costs.

He said he'd like to see such companies invest in the communities where they set up shop – not only by making grants and donating money, but by making efforts to keep locals from being displaced.

What's next

"I think there's a movement picking up," said East Palo Alto resident Ofelia Bello. Amazon's decision to come to East Palo Alto marks a turning point for the city, she said.

For so long, she said, East Palo Alto has been seen as separate from Silicon Valley. While it has experienced the pressures and stresses of added regional growth, she said, it has not necessarily reaped the benefits.

"We have a long history of being screwed over," she said. Even though Amazon is expanding in East Palo Alto, its recent action shows that it still sees East Palo Alto as separate from Silicon Valley, she said.

The coalition has not given up hope for a reversal of the East Palo Alto City Council's decision, despite a March 25 statement by East Palo Alto Mayor Larry Moody that he would "not offer a vote to rescind the decision nor recommend the Council do so."

In regard to Amazon, Ms. Bello said, "They can work with us, or we're going to clash."

Members of the Real Community Coalition said they plan to attend the East Palo Alto City Council's next meeting on April 4, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

--

Comments

parent
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 31, 2017 at 1:57 pm
parent, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 31, 2017 at 1:57 pm
7 people like this

Is there some way to bring new employers into the city while protecting the residents that already live here? Don't force our current residents to leave town because of gentrification. This is terribly unfair, especially to children and the elderly who may have huge problems moving to a new city.


Roberto
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Mar 31, 2017 at 4:29 pm
Roberto, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2017 at 4:29 pm
2 people like this

I read this comment many times over
"Event organizer JT Faraji of East Palo Alto said that Facebook's offer will "(aid) in the criminalization" of his community because he thinks increased policing will lead to racial profiling"
Ignoring national stats that may/may not apply, what stats in Menlo Park support JT's statement. What I do not see is a plan from JT to provide support for the increased need for police for simple matters as traffic to more complex matters. I would have like to see JT state we want people from this neighborhood (M2) to be hired into the police department and then we will support it. That is a solution.


Nia
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 31, 2017 at 5:11 pm
Nia, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 31, 2017 at 5:11 pm
6 people like this

[Post removed; stick to the issue and don't slander an entire population with alleged anecdotal personal experiences.]


Hmmm
another community
on Mar 31, 2017 at 8:02 pm
Hmmm, another community
on Mar 31, 2017 at 8:02 pm
Like this comment

Roberto - what does Menlo Park have to do with this story?


Roberto
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Mar 31, 2017 at 9:00 pm
Roberto, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2017 at 9:00 pm
6 people like this

@ Hmmmm - 50% of the article "Facebook has offered to pay $9.1 million over five years to enable the Menlo Park Police Department to expand its services in eastern Menlo Park. The money would go toward establishing a new police unit in the city's "Bayfront" or M-2 area, roughly bordered by the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, U.S. 101 and Marsh Road."
This TJ person opposes that, fine, but where is the solution. At least fb had a solution....and yes, for MP. Amazon, is the EPA chapter of this article


John
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 1, 2017 at 9:53 am
John, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 1, 2017 at 9:53 am
3 people like this

Roberto, It is a well known and widely accepted fact that Menlo Park has an abusive police dept that racially profiles its own residents and the residents in near by cities. There where meetings all last year with serval residents in Menlo Park that have been complaining. There have been serval lawsuits filed against the MPPD in recent years one such law suit was by a Hiruy Amanuel in 2013. For every complaint there are probably ten unreported incidents do to the fact that the population being victimized doesn't know their rights and they have been intimated for an extensive period of time. Joining an abusive police department will not change a culture of corruption! Not even a little bit. Officers all need dash cameras in their patrol cars I've heard Mr. JT Faraji say that. I've heard him say they need more training about sensitivity and stricter policies and better more effective oversight committees. I think personally that they should replace the command structure that allows harassment to continue while they turn a blind eye. They need to have officers that get complaints filed on them in Belle Haven sent to my neighbor hood in Sharon Heights I guarantee those officers will not pull any of that stuff over here. If they did they would get fired before even returning to Laurel st.!
Companies like Facebook need to understand that if they support and fund police departments that have corrupt officers, and policies in place that aid in that corruption, that more and more people like Mr. Faraji will emerge. Do you really want a national spotlight on Menlo Park like Ferguson?? I know I don't..


Mr. T
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 1, 2017 at 9:22 pm
Mr. T, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 1, 2017 at 9:22 pm
5 people like this

This is not good that the city council caved in. Donald Trump was right when he said that we make bad deals in this country for the working class. The elites, you're time is coming. All we need is the inner city poor and the working class of Flyover Country to realize they are being pushed around by so called progressives, who, by the way, claim they support immigrants, but support social policies that result in the prepetuation of economic disparities.


Brian
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm
7 people like this

Having lived very close to EPA for many years, including when it was the per capita murder capital of the United States, I for one am happy to see the recent changes and even gentrification if that is what it takes to chase out the gangs and other criminals. Gun fire used to be a nightly occurrence as did the police and ambulances raving the the scene of a drive by shooting or gang attack. I also find nothing wrong with people having to compete for a job and not getting an advantage because they live in the city. If that got reversed and Palo Alto or Menlo Park made it a requirement to hire residents first, over people who lived in RWC or EPA think of the uproar.

As for John's comments, they may be his opinion but that opinion is not shared by many. If you have proof of racial profiling or "brutality" bring it out, otherwise share it as your opinion and not "a given fact". Lawsuits prove nothing until they have been heard in court and a decision made. I can accuse anyone of anything but it does not make them guilty until I prove it in a court of law. Sure people sue the police, happens all the time. Criminals are always looking for an easy buck, that is why they become criminals.


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