Alex Heath, reporting a politically heated story for The Verge on Wednesday:

Google fired 28 employees in connection with sit-in protests at two of its offices this week, according to an internal memo obtained by The Verge. The firings come after 9 employees were suspended and then arrested in New York and California on Tuesday.

The fired employees were involved in protesting Google’s involvement in Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Israeli government cloud contract that also includes Amazon. Some of them occupied the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian until they were forcibly removed by law enforcement. Last month, Google fired another employee for protesting the contract during a company presentation in Israel.

In a memo sent to all employees on Wednesday, Chris Rackow, Google’s head of global security, said that “behavior like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it…”

He also warned that the company would take more action if needed: “The overwhelming majority of our employees do the right thing. If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again. The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior — up to and including termination.”

I say this as a liberal, somewhat progressive person politically: Google had every single right to fire each last one of these “protestors.” Gaby Del Valle for The Verge also reported earlier on Wednesday that the demonstrators occupied Google’s offices illegally, even after they were asked to leave by management, which led the company to call the police to arrest nine of them. A man who works for Google said to the protestors, as quoted by The Verge: “We’re asking you to leave again for the last time.” Then, when they stayed, a police officer offered the demonstrators a plea deal of sorts: “Listen, we’ll let you walk out the door right now — it’s a non-issue if you’re willing to go. If not, you’re going to be arrested for trespassing.”

Every one of the 28 employees who was fired Wednesday evening was given multiple chances to leave a secured, locked building that they were not permitted to use for demonstrations, but they flagrantly violated orders given by a representative for the owner of the building, who also happens to be their employer. If that isn’t a reason for termination of employment, I do not know what is. This type of lunatic behavior would get any employee fired because the protestors engaged in illegal activity. It’s trespassing — illegally occupying a building when the owner gives repeated instructions to leave. When that owner is your employer, termination is a fair punishment.

Those complaining about “free speech,” like many right-wingers, do not actually understand what free speech means in this context. Employees are permitted to protest, especially against their employer, for a variety of reasons. That is protected speech under the Constitution as long as the protestors don’t cause a disturbance, also known as “disorderly conduct” in criminal law. Trespassing goes beyond disorderly conduct; it’s a felony offense to occupy a building when disallowed. From what is known currently, it doesn’t seem that any protestors were charged with crimes — they were simply fired for staging a rogue protest against their employer. Trespassing and causing a disturbance is enough of a reason to fire an employee according to the law. If an employee randomly stood up from their desk and began shouting, they would be reprimanded.

Online activists are calling this protest “peaceful,” when breaking the law is exactly what makes a protest the opposite of “peaceful.” No matter what the protest was for — Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, or Israel’s military campaign in Gaza — a protest in a building where demonstrators are unauthorized to be is illegal, and therefore, punishable. Punishing an employee for failing to obey orders is a right given by the Constitution’s First Amendment to Google, and a corporation disciplining an employee or contractor for psychotic behavior is protected legally under free speech rights in the United States. Nobody has a right to be upset about how the protestors were treated in this case — while their cause’s importance can be debated until the end of time, their actions are undoubtedly flawed.

I truly cannot believe people who managed to land a job at one of the world’s largest technology firms are so stupid that they occupied the private office of their chief executive as if they were rioters on January 6, when a mob of Republican supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington to stop the certification of the 2020 election. The blatant lawlessness exhibited in this protest is appalling and should be condemned in the strongest terms. A functioning democracy necessitates the right to protest, but this wasn’t any ordinary protest — it was a stunning spectacle of incompetence, mindlessness, and arrogance unlike one displayed in Silicon Valley before. “Big Tech” employees have protested via many walk-outs, sit-ins, and other protests to reject their employers' policies, but they have always done so peacefully and respectfully, inspiring change for everyone in a dignified manner. This was the complete opposite.

Condemning the protestors isn’t an endorsement of Israel’s actions in Gaza, Google’s deal with the Israeli government, or the U.S. government’s foreign policy with respect to Jerusalem. Anyone who appreciates dignity and the right to protest in the workplace should be ashamed of Wednesday’s events because they demonstrate the rogue, nonsensical mentality of pro-Palestinian mobsters who are taking rights away from peaceful protestors with their illegal actions. In addition to breaking trespassing laws, they chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” a slogan deemed antisemitic by many, presumably including Jewish people at Google, and pinned banners to the wall with antisemitic language. Google has the right to maintain company policy and remove employees who disrupt the workplace with hateful messages, regardless of what political ideologies those messages are linked to. Google is a company made of people, and if they feel disrespected, they have the right to take action.

For the sacred right to peacefully protest in the United States to remain intact, protestors need to remain respectful and mindful of their neighbors. If they aren’t, the country risks another January 6 — but this time, much, much worse. Political violence and lawlessness are never acceptable.