Atlanta activists: We don’t want Amazon HQ2 here

Urvaksh Karkaria
A tract of land known to locals as The Gulch is shown Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Atlanta. As Atlanta vies to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters on the site, local leaders are studying a proposal to build a $5 billion project with more than three times the office space of New York's Empire State Building.
John Bazemore | AP

Lost in the chorus of economic development boosters and the daily drip…drip…drip of surveys touting Atlanta as a favorite to land Amazon's second headquarters is a growing sentiment that the resulting income inequality, unaffordable housing and traffic congestion is not worth even the 50,000 jobs "HQ2" would bring.

The NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) is bubbling to the surface with the launch of

The website, which provides few clues of about the group or its agendas, compares the HQ2 derby to "something like a televised Hunger Games death-match." Based on the ownership of the IP address, the website, registered Feb. 1, appears to be hosted in Europe possibly by a Romanian company.

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The activists, who have taken their message public with a Twitter account and colorful flyers, view Amazon with suspicion— a company whose end-game, they say, is to replace its employees with robots and turn towns into the "live-work-playgrounds of the new rich."

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The Atlanta activists are not alone. Amazon's high-profile HQ2 search has united an ideologically diverse group of dissenters, ranging from rightwing organizations linked to the Koch brothers to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), The Guardian notes.

Like the Atlanta group, Generation Opportunity, a conservative advocacy group for millennials associated with the Koch brothers, has launched a targeted digital ad campaign that also compares the HQ2 competition to Hunger Games. A Generation Opportunity spokesman said Friday his organization is not affiliated with AtlantaAgainstAmazon.

Updated: Amazon HQ2 prediction roundup

Wall Street Journal Ranking: #1
Moody's Analytics: Not Top 10
CNBC: #7
Real estate research firm Reis Inc: Unranked
Anderson Economic Group: #8
Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities index: #2
PaddyPower betting odds: 20/1

Amazon's decision to pit cities against one another is viewed by many as a ploy to squeeze economic incentives. Indeed. Ludicrous offers are on the table, including a $7 billion package from New Jersey and $3 billion from Philadelphia.

Georgia is said to have offered more than $1 billion in incentives and infrastructure improvements. The state has pitched nearly 10 Atlanta intown and suburban sites. Downtown's Gulch is considered to be the city's "primary site" for HQ2.

Local governments and real estate firms are "scrambling to volunteer whole districts up to the sacrificial altar," AtlantaAgainstAmazon notes on its site.

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The group makes reasonable arguments about gentrification in the wake of HQ2 and its swarm of richly compensated techie workforce. Amazon's new employees, the activists say, would drive up housing costs, pricing the non-tech workforce out of city and increasing homelessness.

"While gentrification in Atlanta is already an issue, HQ2 would permanently cement this disastrous transformation," the site noted.

But, AtlantaAgainstAmazon also appears to veer into a ramble about surveillance and paranoia.

"Amazon's conquest of information will not stop until your entire psychological profile is documented, and their marketplace expands across your entire economic periphery. In Orwell's 1984, citizens are left without the words to describe freedom. In Bezos' 2018, citizens freely and voluntarily declare their preferences to Alexa, to be stored forever in Amazon's data-centers and eventually to be auctioned off to the highest bidder."

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The activists view Amazon's delivery via drone technology as an elaborate effort to exert control.

Amazon's "attempts at lobbying for the legal clearance to use drones as delivery robots set a worrying precedent for the expanded use of drones for all sorts of anti-social purposes – those of us who paid attention to the array of technologies used to suppress Native Americans in Standing Rock have not forgotten that drones were first and foremost designed as military weapons."

In its "call to resistance" the group has this message: "No, we don't want Amazon here. In fact, we don't want Amazon anywhere. We believe that Atlantans and all people of good conscience across the country should oppose the HQ2 proposal before the decision is made."

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