Under the slogan "don't wait for change, create it," hundreds of Silicon Valley workers and supporters rallied against President Donald Trump's administration’s policies on immigration, 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 promote the values of fact- and science-based truth, inclusion and diversity in the workplace, society and government.
The 26 speakers, from CEOs and venture capitalists to tech-company cafeteria workers, kicked off what organizers hope will grow into a movement to push back on federal policy changes and to make up for deficits that already exist in Silicon Valley, such as under-representation and pay inequality for women and minorities.
"Now is 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 what they say are 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 Palo Alto company TIBCO Software said they are concerned about the executive order travel ban and order to deport many undocumented immigrants.
Milind Duraphe, an engineer, has lived in the Bay Area for 19 years.
"I'm worried about tolerance. We always had freedom of speech," he said, citing attacks against the press and the singling out of groups of people, such as Muslims and immigrants, as potential forerunners to suppression.
Raj Mashruwala agreed.
"I feel very insecure. I've been in this country for 42 years," Mashruwala, an American citizen, said.
Silicon Valley could be hurt by new federal policies if they hinder the hiring of qualified immigrants. 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.
Others who weren’t necessarily technologists said they were supporting the rally because they are concerned for the nation.
"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.
Brad Taylor, founder of Tech Stands Up, said that the organizers invited 15 nonprofit groups to participate, including the United Farm Workers, and groups supporting service workers and affordable housing and opposing the spread of misinformation (or what has otherwise been called "fake news") on the internet.
Aviv Ovadya, a technologist, represented a coalition of groups working to identify and quantify false information 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 that 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 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, registered Democrats in a city could be identified by street of residence and targeted for a phone campaign to place signs in their yards, 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.