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Google fired 28 employees for staging in-office protests against the company's contract with Israel

Ana Altchek,Meghan Morris   

Google fired 28 employees for staging in-office protests against the company's contract with Israel
  • Nine Google employees were arrested after protesting the company's contract with Israel.
  • The company fired 28 employees in California and New York.

More than two dozen Alphabet employees who participated in office protests over the company's work with Israel were fired on Wednesday, the company said.

The 28 employees had occupied Google offices in Sunnyvale, California, and New York City on Tuesday to protest Project Nimbus, Google's $1.2 billion joint contract with Amazon that provides services to Israel's government.

"Physically impeding other employees' work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and we will investigate and take action," a Google spokesperson said. "These employees were put on administrative leave, and their access to our systems was cut."

Nine workers were arrested after they refused to leave the offices. Five of the arrests were in Sunnyvale, and four were in New York. Police in both locations confirmed the figures to Business Insider.

A representative for the New York Police Department said the four people in New York were charged with criminal trespassing. A representative for the Sunnyvale police department said the arrested individuals received citations for trespassing. The district attorney's office in Santa Clara County said on Wednesday that charges had not yet been filed.

Chris Rackow, Google's head of security, wrote in an internal memo on Wednesday that the protests were "extremely disruptive" and that they "made coworkers feel threatened."

The company had 182,502 employees as of December 31.

Protests against Project Nimbus

Small groups of Google employees have voiced dissent against Project Nimbus, a joint contract with Amazon that provides artificial intelligence and cloud computing services to Israel's government and military.

Last month, a Google employee protesting the contract was fired for disrupting a talk in New York by the company's head of Israel.

More than 100 people, including Google workers, protested the project outside the company's New York office in 2022. The protest came after the resignation of a Google employee who'd spoken out against Project Nimbus.

The tech group No Tech for Apartheid said it organized Tuesday's protest as part of its campaign asking Amazon and Google to scrap Project Nimbus. It says the tech companies' contract enables the Israeli government to surveil and displace Palestinians. The contract — the details of which became public in 2021 — drew additional scrutiny after Hamas launched a series of terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200. Israel responded to the attacks with a monthslong offensive that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians.

A Google representative told BI the company supported governments in countries it operated in with cloud computing services.

"We have been very clear that the Nimbus contract is for workloads running on our commercial cloud by Israeli government ministries, who agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy," a Google spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the work wasn't directed at highly sensitive or classified military projects relevant to weapons or intelligence services.

Protesters complied with arrests

Sunnyvale Police Department's captain, Dzanh Le, told BI there were 80 to 90 protesters outside the building in Sunnyvale on Tuesday, with a few occupying a room in Google's complex. Sources told Bloomberg that some protesters congregated near the office of Google Cloud's CEO.

Le said the police department received a call from Google around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday saying the protesters refused to leave. The protesters refused again when the police came and were then arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing. Le said the protesters complied with the arrest.

One of the employees arrested in Google's New York City headquarters, 23-year-old Hasan Ibraheem, told BI the protest started around noon Tuesday when a group of employees sat in the office with a banner and started giving speeches and reciting chants.

Ibraheem said the group was asked to leave multiple times throughout the day but continued the chants and speeches every 15 to 20 minutes until about 6 p.m. By 6:45 p.m., he said, the remaining group was informed that they no longer had access to the building and couldn't work.

The police arrived around 9:30 p.m. and arrested the remaining four Googlers, Ibraheem said. The workers were released from the station at 2 a.m., he said.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

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