- A group of protesters repeatedly interrupted an Amazon tech conference on Thursday.
- Multiple people stood up and shouted during the first half hour of the keynote, in protest of Amazon’s dealings with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- Hundreds of protestors also blocked traffic outside of the venue.
- The exec on stage, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, even took a moment to respond, before moving back to his talk about cloud computing services.
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Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, held a tech conference in New York on Thursday where it announced some new products.
But a group of anti-Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) protesters repeatedly disrupted the keynote talk given by AWS CTO Werner Vogels.
Protesters at various times stood up and yelled about children being separated from their families at the border, and about Amazon’s dealings with ICE.
Am I the only one who didn’t know that Amazon helps ICE track, detain and deport immigrants? I just googled to make sure and there are news reports going back to at least June 2018.
— Holly Figueroa O’Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) July 11, 2019
Others yelled, “break ties with ICE.”
— Make the Road NY 🦋 (@MaketheRoadNY) July 11, 2019
Security escorted them out.
At one point, Vogels acknowledged the situation saying: I’m more than willing to have a conversation, but maybe they should let me finish first,” reports ZDNet’s Natalie Gagliordi. “We’ll all get our voices heard.”
Interestingly, on the livestream of the keynote viewed by Business Insider, the audio muted the protesters’ voices.
Last year’s version of the New York event was the subject of protests as well, but this year, there were more people and more disruption.
Those that came to hear about AWS’s new products and services thought Vogels “handled it respectfully” — at least, according to Stu Miniman, host of a tech video streaming program called theCUBE.
Outside the venue this year, the protests were even bigger, with hundreds of people disrupting New York traffic, according to ABC7NY.
The protesters took issue that big-data company Palantir, which has acknowledged it works with the Homeland Security Investigations unit of ICE, reportedly uses AWS’s cloud services. This relationship was outlined in a protest letter sent to management by Amazon employees last year, and again in a letter circulating around Amazon this week.
The protestors also took issue with Amazon’s sales of its Rekognition facial recognition technology to police and other government agencies, as revealed by emails between Amazon and various government officials obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundations.
Another email, obtained last year by The Daily Beast, showed how AWS officials met with ICE to try and convince the agency to buy a number of Amazon technologies, including the controversial facial recognition software.
While Amazon’s possible involvement with ICE was the primary subject of Thursday’s protests, protests at Amazon events have practically become the norm these days.
Last month in Las Vegas during the company’s re:MARS conference, which focused on robotics, AI and space technology, an animal rights activist leapt on stage with CEO Jeff Bezos to protest the treatment of chickens at farms.