Culture

Anti-Google far-right protest march postponed

Commentary: Organizers say "alt-left terrorist groups" have threatened their "peaceful" march planned for Saturday.

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Googleplex

Saturday will likely be a peaceful day there.

/ Getty Images

After President Donald Trump said again on Tuesday that there was fault on both sides during the marches in Charlottesville, Virginia -- in which a protester was allegedly killed by a neo-Nazi sympathizer -- Google must have wondered what to expect on Saturday.

After all, organizers from the right-wing side of life had declared there would be a march on the company at its headquarters in Mountain View, California, as well as eight other cities, that day.

This was to protest the firing of James Damore, a Google engineer whose controversial in-house memo argued a gender gap at Google exists not because of sexism, but because of "biological" differences between men and women. 

Now, however, the march has been postponed. Organizers said on a website created to coordinate the march that this "peaceful" march was being called off because of "alt-left terrorist threats." 

Later Wednesday, Mountain View police confirmed the postponement. But the department said it would "maintain a heightened presence" in the area "in an abundance of caution."

The idea that this "alt-left" exists at all is disputed by some. It was, though, a term used by the president on Tuesday, as if to indicate that those on the left have organizations that mirror those on the right. The "alt-right," short for alternative right, is a far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state.

Organizers of the anti-Google march said "an Alt Left threat was made to use an automobile to drive into our peaceful march." They said authorities were notified. 

Google declined to comment on the postponement. 

The march's lead organizer is Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist who has reportedly pushed back against characterizations of him as "alt-right," a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism. As well as blaming the so-called "alt-left," Posobiec's postponement announcement said certain media had "made malicious and false statements that our peaceful march was being organized by Nazi sympathizers."

For Google, this postponement surely represents a little respite after Damore had become a hero to right-wing organizations and appeared on their YouTube broadcasts. After Charlottesville, however, he told CNN: "I do not support the alt-right." He also referred to himself in a Reddit AMA as "a centrist."

Google still has much to do in order to get beyond the Damore controversy.  To some, it looked like the company took action against him only when his memo was published by the media.

The company seemed taken aback to see the issue become politicized so quickly. In recent days, Google hasn't commented on the subject at all. It canceled an all-hands meeting to discuss Damore's memo due to security and privacy concerns.

"In the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely," CEO Sundar Pichai said in a memo last Thursday. This doesn't appear to have happened yet.

The anti-Google organizers say that they intend to march "in a few weeks' time."

What will be the atmosphere at Google? And what will be the atmosphere in America?

First published Aug. 16, 10:10 a.m. PT
Update, 12:27 p.m. PT: Adds confirmation on the postponement from the Mountain View Police Department.

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