Anyone who lives in the area is familiar with the sight of tech corporation commuter buses. Apple, Google, and, of course, Facebook, send shuttles to areas in which their employees live, ostensibly in order to provide free and convenient transportation as a perk of working for these businesses. However, these buses are becoming a terrible nuisance, say many Bay area residents. This past February, protestors at Fairmount Elementary blockaded the area in which three private tech company buses had taken over 4 parking spots previously used by teachers, parents, and other residents. Now, protestors are saying that tech commuter buses are contributing to the unwanted gentrification of many valued SF neighborhoods. In this most recent incident, protestors slashed one of the tires of a Facebook bus, while holding signs that said, “F— the Zuck Bus,” pointing to Mark Zuckerberg. The individual who slashed the single back tire was arrested on charges of vandalism.
While many causes are worthwhile to fight for, it is important to remember what you may be exposing yourself to if you participate in illegal activities during a protest. For example, destroying, defacing, or damaging someone else’s property is made illegal by California Penal Code 594. Even very minor incidences of vandalism could end in a lengthy prison sentence and extremely high fines. It all depends on the value of the property that has been destroyed, defaced, or damaged.
If the property in question is worth less than $400, then it is considered a misdemeanor; such a conviction will likely end in approximately 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. However, if the property in question is worth more than $400, then penalties become more serious. In fact, at that level, vandalism is considered a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors have the discretion to determine whether they will treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A felony vandalism conviction could mean up to 3 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Although the value of the Facebook bus’s back tire is uncertain, it is likely worth less than $400.