The deadly clashes between alt-right demonstrators and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia have shaken the nation, spurring alarm and condemnation from political leaders across the spectrum. Mountain View leaders were concerned their city could be the setting for the next violent skirmish, but it looks like it won't be happening this weekend.
Conservative bloggers have apparently called off a mass rally this Saturday outside Google's North Bayshore headquarters to protest the company's recent termination of an engineer who penned a controversial memo.
Two local groups, MV Tomorrow and Mountain View Voice for Peace and Justice, announced a counter-protest planned for Saturday will go on, regardless.
The lightning rod for the protest, James Damore, circulated a memo that criticized Google's diversity efforts and claimed biological differences make women less suited to jobs in technical fields and leadership roles than men.
The memo generated a firestorm after it was circulated on social media earlier this month. Google executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, swiftly denounced Damore's arguments. A couple of days later, Damore was fired for violating the tech giant's employee code of conduct.
Damore was quickly hailed as a free-speech hero by right-wing commentators and pundits. Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump activist and influential blogger who promoted the fake "Pizzagate" conspiracy, last week called for protests against Damore's firing to be held on Aug. 19 outside Google's campuses across the nation.
On Wednesday, Posobiec posted an announcement that the event was being canceled, claiming threats from "alt-left terrorist groups."
Posobiec alleges that Google is a monopoly that is exploiting its power to silence dissent and subvert free speech, according to his post about the event.
In Mountain View, the "March on Google" had been scheduled from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, at 1500 Charleston Road.
The group Mountain View Voice for Peace and Justice announced they would organize a counter-protest to be held from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19. This rally will be held at a different location -- the city's downtown Civic Plaza, at 500 Castro St.
A second group, MV Tomorrow, planned a similar counter-protest for Sunday morning, but they later announced they would merge their demonstration with the Saturday rally planned by Mountain View Peace and Justice.
Members of both groups say they decided against calling for a counter-protest at the same time and location out of concern it could cause a confrontation that could trigger more violence.
Lenny Siegel, Mountain View's vice mayor, said Wednesday that the counter-protest will go on as scheduled, despite the "March on Google" being postponed.
"Perhaps there will be a smaller turnout, but I think it's important for us to continue to speak out collectively and organize on many fronts," he said in an email to Mountain View Voices for Peace and Justice. "Mountain View is a community that treasures diversity and struggles to promote equality. These human rights values are essential for our democracy, our culture and our economy. Along with our neighbors, we are driving the national economy. When we stand up, it provides a beacon of hope for the nation."
Mountain View police officials and political leaders say they were taking the situation seriously. The city put out two separate statements since Monday giving assurances that officials are working to ensure the rallies remained civil and nonviolent.
"We are taking a close look at the event, especially in light of the attention it is receiving since the tragedy in Virginia last weekend," said police spokeswoman Katie Nelson in an email. "We will do everything we can to ensure that everyone not only is able to peaceably protest, but that everyone is also safe."
There had been no indication that violent groups plan to attend the protest, Nelson said.
On Wednesday, the police department confirmed that the march had been postponed, but said that officers would have a heightened presence both at Charleston Park and downtown, "out of an abundance of caution."