Not since 2011’s Occupy Wall Street movement has America seen such a major mass protest. That’s changed, however, as a mass of felines from across the country has assembled at Google’s California headquarters. Google has made millions from cute cat videos, which make up 97% of YouTube content, yet the cats claim that they haven’t seen any royalties despite their continuous work.
They’re calling themselves a Mob of Extraordinary Online Workers, or MEOW, and they stand en masse in front of Google’s glamorous headquarters with signs proclaiming “Stop The Catsploitation” and “Grumpy Cat Is Judging You.” The group of frustrated felines has gathered from across the world to make their bold statement.
“In France a cat is taken care of,” says Henri, a French feline labor consultant brought in by MEOW. “We have health insurance, free kitten care, and mandated six weeks leave for females in heat. I come to America and say ‘What is this?’ How are my brothers and sisters from across the pond not even being paid?”
According to Henri, solidarity is key to the movement. “We already have reached out to Keyboard Cat, Garfield, and the big white fluffy cat from those commercials where the cat is eating food off of a fancy plate with a wine glass next to him for some reason. What is important is that all cats support the movement. Vive la chat! As they say…”
But a very vocal bloc of older cats threatens that solidarity. Some of the older cats who are in attendance, yet not active participants in the protest, think that the current crop of cat celebrities already has it too easy. “I don’t see no cats here, all I see is kittens,” says famed 20th century cat star Felix the Cat.
Felix rose to fame in the early 1920s, and the legacy of over 50 years of success has endured. “It was a different time then, see,” a well aged felix says while looking upon the protesters from afar. “We worked hard and never asked for nothing. Back then it was enough to just be working. Nowadays cats show up and get wet and look sad, or play with things, or sit in boxes and people are all over them saying how cute they are. These kittens up in here don’t know what real work is… We used to be actors, now they up in here just looking cute. It’s a shame.”
A few older stragglers seem to agree with Felix, but aren’t willing to do so publicly. There seems to be a sort of social code prohibiting cats criticizing other cats in public. One cat wishing not to go on the record put it succinctly, saying only, “Crabs in a barrel man. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Meanwhile, in the glass covered fortress that looms above the protestors, Google executives look down with what seems to be deep concern, barely masked with forced expressions of amusement. The colorful interior of the building seems a world away from the protest outside, but as much as Google seems to be attempting to turn a blind eye to it, sounds from below still remain barely audible throughout most of the building.
“Are we happy that our cats are upset? No, of course not,” says Google spokesperson Christina Milbank. She seems to want to present the impression that the company is paying little mind to the protest. However, she cautiously peers from her fifth floor office to the protest below every few minutes. “We make a lot of money off these cats, and anything that upsets them is bad for business. But MEOW is just asking for too much. Have you seen this list? Canned food served daily, 24 hour lap access, velvet scratching posts, bathtub-free work facilities and accommodations… Come on, this is ridiculous.”
Milbank offers a strained smile seemingly to divert attention from what seems to be a nervous, and at times even hostile, countenance. To her credit, she is tasked with defending allegations that Google has employed moving laser pointers, giant spray bottles of water, and even catnip smuggled from Colombia, which seems to be an almost insurmountable task.
“I’m not going to comment on every accusation that gets thrown our way,” Milbank snaps before collecting herself and returning to her usual neutral, even ambivalent tone. “What I will say, however, is that our position has always been that catnip has destroyed lots of hard working cat families, is likely the cause of the shelter cat explosion, and ruins the lives of countless cats every day. YouTube has in the past given millions of dollars to catnip prevention and treatment programs and will continue to do so.”
When pressed further on the specific allegations, Milbank was not willing to go any further, saying only that Google was not willing to speak further on what many have called modern union-busting tactics.
Back outside, the protesters have grown even more active. The growing intensity of the mob is matched only by the growing presence of police officers in full riot gear. A heavyset officer struggles to the top of one of the parked squad cars, bellowing what seems to be a pretense to action through an underpowered megaphone. “By order of the Mountain View Police Department you are hereby ordered to disperse. This is your final warning.”
The tension is palpable, and as the two sides stand eye to eye a new truth seems to emerge: violence may be inevitable.
“You know, violence was never something we were interested in,” says a calico shelter cat from St. Louis who didn’t wish to be named in this piece. “All we wanted was to sit down and talk, but Google didn’t even have enough respect for us to do that. It’s a shame it got to this point, but we have always said that we are willing to bring about change… by any means necessary.”
What happens next is nothing short of tragic. One of the younger cats steps forward to the army of officers equipped with scratch proof vests and guns loaded with rubber bullets. After giving the officers an intense stare, the cat sits down and licks his booty, openly mocking them. A pregnant silence follows and after that it’s not clear which officer fires the first shot, but the resulting chaos can only be described as a massacre.
In an action eerily reminiscent to an old fashioned firing squad, a row of officers begins firing rubber bullets blindly into the assembled masses of unarmed cats. The scene is intensely chaotic, with some cats attempting to defend themselves by biting and clawing officers, and others attempting to find refuge wherever they can. Then suddenly there’s silence as the cats prove to be no match for the heavily armed officers.
In the end over 100 cats are injured by the non lethal bullets. But despite this, the cats say that they will return. After going home for a quick 18 hour nap–and to literally lick their wounds–the cats say they will be back tomorrow stronger and in bigger numbers.
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