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Protestors decry Google’s Israeli military contract at San Francisco conference

Activists shut down a portion of Howard Street in Downtown San Francisco outside the Google Cloud Next Conference. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Protesters held signs, yelled chants, beat on drums and waved Palestinian flags in front of the Google Cloud Next Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday to protest the company’s surveillance contract with Israel.

The protest, which blocked Howard Street just outside the Moscone Center’s main entrance, comes as Google celebrates its first year of profitability at its flagship cloud computing conference.

Protestors block Howard Street to protest Google's Project Nimbus contract with the Israeli government on Tuesday. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

According to Google software engineer Josh Marxen, Palestinian tech workers and colleagues from other marginalized groups have voiced concerns over the contract, named Project Nimbus, and its ability to facilitate advanced surveillance of Palestinians in Gaza since 2021.

The project—a joint venture by Google and Amazon—aims to provide multiple levels of Israel’s government with an “all-encompassing cloud solution,” Israel’s Finance Ministry said at the time of the project’s announcement.

Protestors unveil a banner above Howard Street during the protest in front of the Moscone Center. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

“Palestinian workers are not the only workers who have a stake in this,” Marxen said, adding that the Israeli military trains law enforcement agencies in the United States, and such training could bring the project's advanced surveillance to the U.S.

Lujain Al-Saleh, a member of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said San Francisco is no stranger to the harms of Big Tech and that the use of these technologies will eventually make its way back to the U.S. to be used on marginalized communities.

“Families in Gaza have become lab experiments for these types of tools, and after they are tested on them, they’re packaged and sent to all authoritarian governments and law enforcement agencies all over the world, including right here in the Bay Area, to be used against poor, working-class Black and Brown communities,” she said. “We cannot claim to be a city that supports working communities when we allow technologies to be developed for targeting occupied populations that will be shared with ICE and law enforcement.”

Protestors march in front of the Moscone Center. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

For Monadel Herzallah, a member of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, the contract symbolizes Google’s attempts to monetize the apartheid of Palestinians in the Middle East.

“We recognize the fact that doing business with Israel is doing business with ethnic cleansing,” he said. “Regardless of if Google is welcoming this or has a difference of opinion, we know that the materialization of these contracts are hurting our people, the Palestinian people, as well as the workers at Google.”

Some organizers at the event said they will continue to raise awareness of Big Tech’s influence and Project Nimbus at the upcoming APEC conference to be held in San Francisco in November.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.