Microsoft's "Free Speech Zone"

My name is Isaac Benson Powell, and I worked on the Microsoft teams that built the Windows Phone and also the Xbox One.  My experience with Microsoft, and the way they treat the people who work on their products, left a very bitter taste in my mouth.  In April of 2015, I published a book that documented many of the horrible employment conditions I saw first hand at Microsoft.

I'm NOT asking you to read my book or even agree with what I have to say in it.  What I'm talking about here is the fact that I thought the First Amendment allowed me to express my dissatisfaction with those in power, at locations designated for public use.  As you will discover below, Microsoft treated my peaceful expression of dissent as a criminal activity.  I think this is a huge abuse of power.  I would ask that you read what I have to say here and share this article with others, as a way to force Microsoft back into accepting the fact that they are not so big and powerful that they can flagrantly violate the U.S. Constitution.

Below is a relatively short play-by-play description of the events of my one man protest against Microsoft.

On May 27th, 2015, I attempted to peacefully protest Microsoft, near the buildings I used to work in.  I had driven all the way from Anchorage Alaska to Redmond Washington to perform this protest.  My plan was to protest them for a few weeks, or at least until I was able to pass out 100 free copies of my book, and make sure people knew how I felt about Microsoft's employment practices.

In the map below, the areas in green are public locations where I felt I could legally protest Microsoft.  These are all public roads, which have sidewalks that run parallel to them.  The buildings marked “F” and “A” are the two buildings where Microsoft had me work on their Windows Phone and Xbox One products.

I started my protest where you see the big red dot in the middle of the map.  After about an hour though, a Microsoft security agent approached me and told me this was not their “preferred” protest area, and physically escorted me along the black dotted line to the big black dot (corner of 40th and 156th ave ).


Microsoft's evil town of Redmond Washington.


After about an hour of protesting at the big black dot location, I decided that's not where I wanted to protest. So, after lunch I returned to the big red dot, and continued my peaceful protest, which simply consisted of me standing on the sidewalk, holding a sign and passing out free literature.

About an hour later, an SUV full of Microsoft security agents pulled up, they got out of their vehicle and one of them confronted me.  He told me I had to remain where I was and that the police were on the way.  An officer from the Redmond police department showed up, saw me standing on the sidewalk peacefully protesting, but wrote me up a Criminal Trespass Warning letter anyway (seen below).


Trespass Warning Letter


At this point in time, the Microsoft security agent told me I could return to the big black dot location, and continue my protest, but if I were to protest Microsoft ANYWHERE else in the entire city of Redmond Washington, they would have me arrested for criminal trespass, even though at no time had I strayed from the sidewalks along public roads.

I had never protested before and didn't anticipate this clear violation of my constitutional rights.  As such, I didn't have any camera recording all of this.  However, a complete stranger had taken the photograph of me (seen below), as I was being confronted by the head Microsoft security agent, right before the police showed up.  The security agent standing next to me in the photograph told me my presence was making people feel “uncomfortable”.


Confrontation with Microsoft Security.


While this is the only photographic evidence I have of the incident, it does show me standing on the sidewalk along 150th Ave.  However, and this is a very big deal, Microsoft has more security cameras than you can count along all their buildings, pathways, etc...  I'm pretty confident that I didn't take a single step that day that was not recorded by Microsoft security cameras.  Not only that, but Microsoft has tons of lawyers and they deal with legal issues all the time.  If Microsoft actually thought I had trespassed on their property, they would have taken this security footage and saved it for a possible future court date with me.

We cannot allow people/organizations with such wealth and power to flagrantly abuse our fundamental rights.  This experience rocked me to my very core.  I was already mad at Microsoft for multiple reasons which are well documented in my book.  However, when Microsoft told me (with police backing) that they considered my peaceful protest a criminal activity, it kind of broke something inside of me.

My anger and rage then turned into depression, and when combined with other things going on in my life, I became hopeless and suicidal.  In the 7 months following this experience, I was in and out of 4 different facilities to deal with my anger, depression, and hopelessness at not even having the basic right of peacefully expressing my grievances with Microsoft in a public location.

In November of 2015, my Health Insurance company (Moda Health) informed me that even though they knew I was suicidal, and I had paid all my premium payments and out of pocket deductibles for the entire year, they were refusing to pay for me to attend any more group therapy sessions.  This was the very last straw that broke me.

On December 4th , 2015 I drove to Redmond Washington, rented a hotel room, and tried to kill myself via suffocation.  I thought all the oxygen in the bag over my head would be used up, and I would pass out and die.  Turns out that my body recognized that it was losing oxygen and my breathing became really heavy and I ripped the bag open to get oxygen.  I tried this again, but with the same result.  I then realized that this method was not going to work, at least while my hands were free.  After this failed attempt to end my life, I drove to a local hospital and was there for about 10 days, and my life has been in a state of limbo ever since.

There is one very important thing to understand about Microsoft...  Their single core value is to make money.  I'm not saying this is a good or bad thing, I'm just saying that is the sole driving influence behind all their decisions.  As Americans, we need to make it crystal clear to Microsoft that they cannot violate our 1st and 4th amendments in their pursuit of making money.

What I'm asking of you?
  1. Share this article with others.

  2. Demand that Microsoft publicly release all video security camera footage of me protesting them on May 27th, 2015, and have them explain why they considered my actions to be a criminal activity.

  3. Have Microsoft publicly admit that their “Free Speech Zone” has replaced the First Amendment in Redmond Washington.


Notes:
  1. If Microsoft says they don't have the video surveillance footage, this is a very strong indication that they knew I didn't do anything wrong and/or are attempting to cover this up.  Any wrong doing on my part definitely would have been recorded on multiple security cameras and saved by Microsoft for a possible future court date.

  2. If Microsoft releases the video surveillance footage, this will show me walking on sidewalks along public roads.  It will show me standing, holding a sign.  It will show me offering free copies of my book to individuals who approached me.  I'm a very shy/introverted person by nature, so I was NOT out there heckling or harassing people in any way.  I was simply holding a sign, and engaging in conversation with people who approached me and wanted to hear what I had to say.