Tech workers gathered in downtown San Francisco on Monday to do something decidedly non-techie: protest.
Their grievance? President Donald Trump’s proposed policies to stem the flow of immigration to the US — specifically his executive order temporarily halting travel to the US from seven majority-Muslim countries and his plans to build a wall along the Mexican border.
Roughly 150 people joined the demonstration, chanting “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all.” People toted signs that read, “Tech workers demand justice” and “We are all tech workers.” Most of the protesters said they work in Silicon Valley companies as janitors, cafeteria workers, engineers and programmers.
Once politically neutral, the tech world has become increasingly more outspoken on social issues. More than 100 tech companies have come out against Trump’s executive order in the past couple of weeks. The immigration ban doesn’t sit well in an industry whose workforce — including key executives — is made up largely of immigrants. Dozens of tech companies have been vocal in their criticism and vowed to do what they can to ease the ban’s effects, including provide legal defense for employees.
“I’m grateful for the tech companies that haven’t been indifferent to this difficult situation,” said Isaac Sanchez, a janitor for Apple who spoke at Monday’s protest. Trump’s policies have “instilled fear in our families, instilled fear in our communities, instilled fear in our kids. We’re here to say enough is enough.”
Trump signed the executive order shortly after his inauguration in January. The temporary ban was meant to halt all travel by people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya to the US. It was immediately met with protests and resistance.
The ban has since been frozen. A federal judge in Seattle issued a restraining order Feb. 3 to block the travel ban. On Friday, a three-judge panel on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not reinstate the ban. Trump has vowed to appeal this ruling.
Despite the ban not being in effect, protesters in San Francisco were still upset by its implications. Anirvan Chatterjee, who founded the startup bookfinder.com and is a member of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, spoke about how Muslims and people of color were discriminated against following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Our people were under attack and the tech world said nothing,” Chatterjee said. “This is why it’s so critical that we’re here. This time is going to be different.”
Organizers of Monday’s protest said they’re urging tech companies to continue taking a stand for immigrants and to follow the lead of several US cities and universities by vowing to be “sanctuary campuses.” This means the companies wouldn’t cooperate in federal efforts to deport immigrants. Organizers also urged companies to provide the same protections to their contractors and part-time staff as they do to their full-time workers.
One protester, Steven Hollon, was carrying a sign that read, “#tech can do better.” He said he’s worked in tech in the Bay Area for the past five years and is currently a freelance digital marketer.
“I’m here to continue the momentum and the reaction on behalf of the tech community from the executive order,” Hollon said. “We want to spark that conversation and keep it going.”