With everything from spray paint to stencils to stickers, the Amazon and Jeff Bezos detractors are making a statement in Seattle.
From Capitol Hill to Crown Hill, graffiti targeting the tech giant and the CEO is showing up on sidewalks, the sides of buildings, light poles, bike racks, bridges and even Amazon delivery lockers.
A particularly large set of “F*** Bezos” tags were visible this week on SR 99 — one on the Aurora Bridge that spans Lake Union and another inside the Battery Street Tunnel. Both are just blocks from Amazon’s headquarters in South Lake Union. It’s at least the second time the tunnel has been tagged during the past year with a large anti-Bezos message.
On Capitol Hill, perched above the part of the city that Amazon has been rapidly remaking with its headquarters buildings, graffiti targeting Amazon, Bezos, techies, tech bros and brogrammers shows up on practically every corner.
The neighborhood has long been a proving ground for street art, where years-old fliers advertising live music and much more are layered upon one another on telephone poles. Anything that stands still long enough seems to get a sticker stuck to it.
But Capitol Hill is emblematic of many of the changes occurring in Seattle as new apartments tower over or ultimately push out old haunts.
And Bezos, the world’s richest person with a net worth of $143 billion, has become the target of many in Seattle who are upset with the Amazon founder and his company’s impact on their city. For better or worse, he has become the face of a tech industry that has rapidly remade the look and feel of Seattle.
Many see Bezos and Amazon as partially to blame for the dearth of affordable housing in Seattle, which has the third-highest homeless population in the nation, according to Zillow data. That was the message of the most ardent supporters of Seattle’s recently defeated head tax, which would have funded affordable housing and homeless services by taxing big businesses like Amazon.
Amazon has historically been criticized for its limited engagement in local issues and philanthropy but in recent years it has announced housing for homeless families, contributed large sums to the University of Washington’s computer science program, and supported a mass transit initiative. It now employs 45,000 in Seattle.
Bezos, meanwhile, has given millions to various causes. His family’s foundation has donated about $30 million to Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center over the past decade and it is the namesake of the center’s new Immunotherapy Clinic.
Bezos also sees his space travel work with Blue Origin to be an altruistic mission. In an on-stage interview with GeekWire’s Alan Boyle at a space conference in May, he said extraterrestrial colonies will be necessary to preserve the health of our planet.
But his philanthropic profile hasn’t elevated to the level of his billionaire peers, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Over the past year, he has been collecting suggestions for where he should direct part of his fortune.
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Bezos has also been a target of President Donald Trump, who has accused Amazon of ripping off the U.S. Postal Service (a claim that has been widely disputed) and underpaying taxes. Trump has also called The Washington Post a “propaganda machine” for Amazon. Bezos purchased The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, but Amazon has no involvement in the newspaper’s business or editorial operations.
Bezos is now $50 billion richer than anyone on Earth. He passed Gates for the world’s richest title this past summer and has seen his net worth spike by more than 50 percent since then.