Under the slogan "don't wait for change, create it," hundreds of Silicon Valley workers and supporters rallied against the Trump administration’s policies on immigrants, health care and other issues on Tuesday afternoon in front of Palo Alto City Hall.
The event, sponsored by Tech Stands Up, urged tech workers to push harder in the workplace, society and government for technology's professed values of fact- and science-based truth, inclusion and diversity.
The 26 speakers, from CEOs and venture capitalists to tech company cafeteria workers, kicked off what organizers hope will grow into an ever-expanding movement to make up the deficits caused by the federal administration's policy changes and those that already exist in Silicon Valley, such as underrepresentation and pay inequality for women and minorities.
"Now it the time to stand up and show these values are more than hoodie slogans," McKensie Lock, Tech Stands Up member, said, noting the group has written a manifesto based on the Valley’s values.
The event took place on Pi Day because "love, like pi, is infinite," Tech Stands Up co-founder Amber Allred Taylor said.
A group of engineers from local company TIBCO Software said they personally feel concerned about the executive order travel ban and order to deport many undocumented immigrants.
Milind Duraphe, an engineer who has lived in the Bay Area for 19 years, said he is worried about the effect of immigration and health care changes.
"I'm worried about tolerance. We always had freedom of speech," he said, noting that attacks against the press and the singling out of groups of people, such as Muslims and immigrants, he said, will eventually lead to suppression.
Raj Mashruwala agreed.
"I feel very insecure. I've been in this country for 42 years," said Mashruwala, an American citizen.
Silicon Valley could be hurt by the policies and the direction the country is taking. Immigrants have produced some of the area's best scientists, innovators and technologists, including many Nobel Prize winners, he added.
"The technology will go somewhere else," he said, noting that from a new immigrant's perspective, "If somebody doesn’t want me, I won’t stay here."
Eric Siegel, an engineer, said the country is "at a tipping point" and there's a need to protect science and engineering because they are fact-based.
Others who weren’t necessarily technologists said they were supporting the effort because they are concerned about the nation's direction and its future.
"Where do you even begin? I just don't recognize this country under this administration," said Ginny Contento, a former teacher who carried a colorful "Silicon Valley -- Powered by Diversity" sign.
Stan Sinberg was selling buttons and hats for Pi Day and ones with messages such as "Is it 2020 yet?" and "Another Nasty Woman Against Trump." Business appeared to be brisk.
"I was in swing states before the election, I hoped to go out of business on Election Day, but I didn’t," he said with noted disappointment.
Brad Taylor, founder of the movement, said that the organizers invited 15 nonprofit groups with which tech workers could join forces. Organizations included the United Farm Workers, groups supporting service workers, affordable housing, and preventing the spread of misinformation (or what has otherwise been called "fake news") on the internet.
Aviv Ovadya, a technologist, represented a coalition of like-minded groups who are working to identify and quantify misinformation on the internet. The group is building an organization that can track what is read and the credibility of the sources to measure the impact of misinformation on the online "ecosystem." The group wants to collaborate with tech companies who have the data to gauge the extent of misinformation and to figure out ways to prevent its spread, he said.
Any Debaets, an engineer, said he is working on software that could help nonprofit groups manage databases and to find the most efficient ways to distribute their information.
One main goal is to create software that could help win Democratic congressional campaigns in 2018. The software would complement existing database and phone-banking software.
As an example, a campaign organizer identified the major streets by name on a city map and looked up registered Democrats who lived on those streets through the voter rolls. The voters became the targets for a phone campaign to place yard signs, he said.
"We would work closely with people who have run urban and rural campaigns to identify what features would be useful," he said, noting they are currently finding and talking to campaign managers.
Taylor said a hackathon is planned for April 7-9 and is the next step to find ways to protect immigrants and refugees, free speech and freedom of the press.