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Tech workers protest Trump policies in Silicon Valley rally

Hundreds attend a rally in Silicon Valley to protest the president's immigration ban and stand united with affected co-workers.

A protester holds a pro-diversity sign, one of dozens that could be seen in Palo Alto, California during the Tech Stands Up rally against President Trump's policies.
James Martin/CNET

Tech companies need to do more than pay lip service if they want to foster inclusion, transparency and innovation under the Trump administration, the organizer of a Silicon Valley rally said Tuesday.

"Today, those values are under attack," said McKenzie Lock, the co-organizer of the Tech Stands Up rally Tuesday in Silicon Valley. "Now is the time for all tech companies to stand up for these values and prove they are more than just hoodie slogans."

The rally comes about a month after about 150 people demonstrated in downtown San Francisco and weeks after more than 100 tech companies signed a legal brief opposing President Donald Trump's original executive order, saying that temporarily halting travel to the US from six majority-Muslim countries "is inflicting substantial harm on US companies."

Late Tuesday, 58 tech companies, including Airbnb, Lyft and Dropbox, signed another brief supporting a lawsuit filed in Hawaii against Trump's revised ban, which takes effect Thursday. Noticeably missing from this second brief are tech giants Apple, Facebook and Google. Those companies signed the first document last month.

Facebook declined to comment Thursday. Apple and Google didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, organizers say about 1,000 people attended Tuesday's nearly five-hour-long protest in waves outside Palo Alto City Hall in objection to Trump's immigration ban as well as in support of immigrants who spark innovation or work blue-collar jobs that keep those tech companies operating.

This included Maria Gonzalez, a janitor at Facebook who tearfully spoke about her family being Costa Rican immigrants and the fear of possible deportation. She said America is a land of opportunity with many households like hers full of people who have immigrated for a better life.

"Those of us who have come here as immigrants are not all criminals, we are hard workers. Look at my hands," she said to loud cheers. "Please stand up for us."

Trump's ban isn't winning support in an industry that depends significantly on immigrants. On Tuesday, chants of "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcomed here" rang out. Attendees held signs reading, "Facts -- There's no alternative," "Tech vs. Trump," "Silicon Valley is powered by diversity," and "No ban, no wall --welcome all."

Ram Sridharan, a software engineer at Knowles Intelligent Audio who came to the US from India on a student visa nearly 20 years ago, held a sign that read, "No Xenophobia, No Islamophobia." Sridharan, who became a US citizen last year, said, "I feel like I have a responsibility and I must speak out on any injustices. It's only right."

Former Silicon Valley communications exec Dex Torricke-Barton urges the crowd at a Tech Stands Up rally to get ready for a long battle in defending immigrant rights.

James Martin/CNET

Longtime Silicon Valley insider Dex Torricke-Barton, who late last year quit his communications job at SpaceX to focus on "social change" after Trump was elected president, told attendees that these are "extraordinary times" and that it takes everybody to make a difference. He cited his father, a Burmese immigrant, as his inspiration.

"I didn't come to Silicon Valley just so I can earn a quick buck or build an interesting app that gave you new ways to take interesting pictures of cats," he said to applause. "I really believe that this community is here to save the world and to change the world."

Later, Lock urged the crowd to meet up in a month to help create local chapters, saying this is just the beginning. She also told them that "changing the world" requires more than building apps and algorithms but also leveraging technology for good.

"If there is one thing the garages and basements of Silicon Valley have proven, it is that small groups of determined people can change the world," she said. "Now is the time that tech stands up."

First published March 14, 8:25 p.m. PT.
Update, March 16 at 1:00 p.m.: Adds Facebook declined to comment.

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