New Disturbing Trend in Land Use Fights: Personal, Vicious Attacks

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By Mike Saint, Chairman and CEO, The Saint Consulting Group

GMOThere is a new and disturbing trend in land use battles — personal, vicious attacks on proponents and those who side with them.
In Hawaii, forces opposed to genetically modified crops got the city council to pass a ban on such uses on agricultural lands. The mayor sided with the farmers and seed companies and vetoed the bill. He received death threats.

In Texas, a female employee left her job as a spokesman for a company that uses hydraulic fracturing – fracking – in gas drilling operations and took a job working for a health care company. Anti-fracking activists took to the internet to personally attack the woman and her new employer, trying to get her fired from her new job.

Now this story from Reuters: Individuals Targeted as San Francisco Tech Money Protests Intensify:

“Jack Halprin, a landlord in San Francisco’s gentrifying Mission district, became the focus of the latest blockade of a tech company commuter bus, with protesters demanding Google ask Halprin to rescind eviction notices he has sent his tenants.
“Protesters told Reuters they will increasingly target individuals as part of a strategy to draw attention to the growing divide between rich and poor in San Francisco, a rift widened by a tech industry boom that is inflating rents and exacerbating social problems such as evictions.
“When you put a face on it, it suddenly becomes more real,” Erin McElroy, an organizer at Eviction-Free San Francisco, said of what she views as a technology-driven housing crunch. About two dozen protesters took part in the action.
“A Google spokeswoman and two lawyers for Halprin didn’t immediately respond for requests for comment. Halprin didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment. The prospect of facing protests on their own doorsteps may unnerve technology industry employees across the Bay Area, many of whom are becoming increasingly aware of the growing ill-will they face in a region where housing prices are skyrocketing and salary growth is anemic outside the tech sector.”

Proponents of new land uses should keep a close eye on these trends. It is not a long step from protesting GMO or fracking or wealth gaps with personal attacks and threats on proponents to personally attacking supporters of any land use, say a proposed shopping center. Bullying people with internet attacks and anonymous physical threats should not be accepted as legitimate means of opposing development.

Mike Saint is chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, email