Pro-Palestinian activists gather outside Google developer conference

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Pro-Palestinian protesters crash Google I/O 2024 conference

Demonstrators squared off against developers at the Google I/O conference in Silicon Valley on Tuesday. Protesters tried to shut down the tech company's biggest conference of the year. Google's billion-dollar contract with Israel continues to be a lightning rod for pro-Palestinian protesters.

Pro-Palestinian activists gathered on Tuesday, during the morning keynote address at Google's flagship developers conference.

"Doing this at this conference sends a clear message to CEO Sundar Pichai and to Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian that you will be afforded not a moment of peace," said Aeril Koren, a spokeswoman for Jewish Voice for Peach.

AROC and Palestinian Youth Movement, the two groups that organized the action, wanted to call attention to Google's business contracts with the Israeli government, and the role its technology is playing in the war in Gaza.

By 9:30 a.m., between 80 and 100 protesters blocked one of the pedestrian entrances to the conference in Mountain View.  

Thousands of people from around the world attended Google's flagship conference in person and online.

"I think a lot of the topics were around AI and the new advancements they’ve made. And obviously it was pretty impressive. I feel like a lot of the new advancements are very interesting. So I’m excited to see how it plays out in my life," said conference attendee Kaleb Getu Gezahegn.

An organization that calls itself "No tech for genocide" wants to draw attention to Google's business contracts with the Israeli government, particularly a program called Project Nimbus. 

The project provides cloud computing services and artificial intelligence technologies to the Israeli government, and by extension, the Israeli military.

"While these contracts are giving the Israeli government the opportunity to say that they're fighting a smart war, it's really giving them additional cover for the killing of 35,000 people in Palestine, so far," Roni Zeiger, a former Google employee. Added Koren, "Google is becoming more and more aggressive in their blatant endorsement of and decision to profit off of Israeli military settler-colonial genocidal violence."

Last month, nine Google workers staged a sit-in protest in the office of one of the executives overseeing the program. It lasted several hours. Those workers were arrested, and another 40 or so Google workers and contractors were also fired, including some of the organizers of Tuesday's protest action.

"The place that we are now in history feels like a turning point. And we need to decide, all of us, how we want innovations like artificial intelligence to affect our futures," said Roni Zeiger, a former Google employee who had joined the protests outside the conference.

The developers conference continues through Wednesday in Mountain View.