By Danny Cendejas, MediaJustice Field Organizer

Photo credit: Conrado Muluc (TW: @conradomuluc, IG: @conradomuluc)

MediaJustice partnered alongside DC’s For Us, Not Amazon (FUNA) coalition to expose the hidden violence that Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) powers across the globe. We attended Amazon’s AWS Summit to ensure attendees got the full picture that Amazon won’t tell consumers: the company’s collusion with governments repression and police fuels state violence and increases their profit. This business model incentivizes the growth of the surveillance by collecting partnerships with police, I.C.E., and military departments at an alarming rate. In response, our organizations are fighting for our right to live safe and free from high-tech policing.

Amazon’s massive scale and corporate greed has expanded the surveillance Black, Muslim, & immigrant communities endure from police and federal agencies every day. Amazon and AWS make millions while accelerating racist policing against communities already overpoliced and profiled by law enforcement. Despite AWS’s creator admitting that “we will never have justice” if we don’t hold police departments accountable for murdering Black people, Amazon’s popular Ring cameras continue to solicit partnerships with police departments. During the 2020 uprisings, Amazon aided law enforcement’s violence against #BlackLivesMatter protesters by offering its technology to surveil and criminalize protesters. In Los Angeles, police used video from Amazon’s Ring to investigate people who marched or spoke out against police violence. Surveillance technology in the hands of police will continue to be used disproportionately against people of color and, to particularly,monitor protests.  However, all Amazon sees is what it stands to gain from monetizing systemic harm. 

In addition to current partnerships with I.C.E., AWS is working with the Department of Homeland Security to dramatically expand the monitoring and tracking of migrants. The $6 billion dollar HART project, hosted on AWS, will aggregate iris scans, fingerprints, voice prints, DNA, and other personal information into a dystopian tracking system that could supercharge raids, detention, and deportation.  

Amazon doesn’t just export its systemic racism and violence to consumers. Amazon products also power exploitative conditions at its warehouses, where Black and brown workers have their every movement and every second of their time tracked by devices that can report them for disciplinary action. Amazon workers are harassed and constantly surveilled for the sake of exploitative production quotas. These digital overseers are causing an injury crisis, as workers are hurt in their efforts to keep up with their digitally-monitored workplaces. Predictably, Amazon surveillance tools have also been used to crack down on the courageous organizing of workers fighting for humane working conditions throughout the global pandemic.

So when Amazon hosted its annual AWS Summit in DC , we were there to expose its harm and to tell the full, true story. We showed up ready to disrupt the Keynote address but Amazon called security on us and tried to silence us by kicking us out of the summit. Undeterred, our voices were heard as we rallied outside our “cloud” public art installation. Our rally included speakers from local organizations like For Us Not Amazon, the Virginia Student Power NetworkDC Jobs With Justice and Muslim Counterpublics Lab, who are fighting together against the harms of Amazon’s HQ2 being built in Arlington, Virginia. They are demanding an end to tech for police and ICE agents, and for housing justice to stop Amazon from taking over their community. We invited summit attendees over to learn more about Amazon’s involvement in human suffering around the world and encouraged them to join our demands for no tech for state violence. 

A local DC organizer proceeded to disrupt the AWS Summit keynote address by Max Peterson, AWS’s global public sector VP with the power of our demand: an end to AWS collaboration with ICE and all actors of state violence worldwide. We made that sure Amazon knows that our communities want no tech for state violence.

Our movement is as bold as it is strong. We believe in speaking truth directly to power. Despite our coalition being profiled and removed from the summit, we ultimately did what we came to do anyway. We won’t be deterred in fighting back.

Believe it or not, there’s even more story to tell from this powerful day, which you can check out in this article from The Hill.


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