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Protesters Disrupt Amazon Event Over Its Ties With ICE

NEW YORK – protesters interrupted a


Thursday's event, expressing opposition to the company's links with entities that enforce the repression of the Trump administration against illegal immigration.

Groups of protesters gathered outside the Amazon Web Services Summit at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a free event open to the public. Inside, dozens of protesters in the audience interrupted an opening speech by Amazon's Technology Director, Werner Vogels, five times before they left.

Mr. Vogels declined to comment on the protests.

A representative of Amazon said in a statement sent by email: "It is clear that governments need more clarity on the acceptable use of [artificial intelligence] and the ramifications of their misuse, and we have provided a proposed legislative framework for this. We remain anxious for the government to provide this additional clarity and legislation. "

Other companies that have been subject to protests due to their links with immigration authorities are Microsoft Corp. and Wayfair Inc.

Last year, some Amazon employees asked corporate leaders to end partnerships with companies that work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

When asked last month if Amazon's cloud division works with ICE, Amazon Web Services executive director Andy Jassy said the company does not disclose the identity of customers who do not give permission to do so. . "We will serve the federal government and they will have to use technology responsibly," he said in an interview with journalist Kara Swisher at a Recode conference.

Social and political problems are increasingly important for technology companies, which shape the perceptions of reputation and brand.

"Large technology companies play a vital role in our modern economy and, as such, can not help becoming entangled in major social problems, which often do not have an easy answer," said Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The protesters at the Amazon event cited media reports that Amazon Web Services provides the underlying technology and infrastructure for several companies that work with ICE. The agency is expected to gather thousands of undocumented immigrants across the country beginning Sunday, according to administration officials.

Amazon leaders are "choosing to be accomplices" in the detention, deportation and death of immigrants, including children, said Angeles Solis, principal organizer of Make the Road New York, one of the groups that organized the protest.

"Amazon needs to recognize and see the damage they are perpetuating," said Solis, adding that hundreds of protesters attended the event. The NYPD said it does not provide crowd estimates.

Amazon's technology director, Werner Vogels, was interrupted by protesters during his opening speech at Thursday's event.


Sara Castellanos / The Wall Street Journal

The protesters who interrupted Mr. Vogels' two-hour speech on cloud computing were playing audio extracts of children separated from their parents in a border patrol facility, obtained by ProPublica last year. Mr. Vogels stopped his presentation for several seconds while the protesters shouted songs like "cut ties with ICE".

"I'm more than willing to have a conversation, but maybe I should let me finish first," Vogels said at one point.

While companies have the right to make business decisions, consumers, employees and shareholders have the right to protest those decisions, said Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank. whose directory includes officials from Amazon and another technology industry. leaders

"But it would be regrettable if doing business with the United States government becomes so polarizing that the best technology companies in the United States are forced to put aside," Castro said.

Write to Sara Castellanos at sara.castellanos@wsj.com

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