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Founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos (via Seattle City Council’s Flickrstream)

Amazon, the ubiquitous corporation of our time, is facing backlash for conducting business with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which operates the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last week, more than 800 musicians signed an open letter pledging to boycott all Amazon festivals and events until the company withdraws its contracts with the government agency.

In an open letter entitled “No Music for ICE!“,  the musicians pledge to not participate in Amazon-sponsored events, or engage in exclusive partnerships with Amazon in the future, until the company meets four demands, quoted below (emphasis theirs):

Terminate existing contracts with military, law enforcement, and government agencies (ICE, CBP, ORR) that commit human rights abuses
Stop providing Cloud services & tools to organizations (such as Palantir) that power the US government’s deportation machine
End projects that encourage racial profiling and discrimination, such as Amazon’s facial recognition product
Reject future engagements w/ aforementioned bad actors.

The letter — organized by a group of artists and activists including Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Downtown Boys’ Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, Evan Greer, Adult Mom, @k8_or_die, Carmen Perry, and Jes Skolnik, according to Rolling Stone — comes in response to the announcement of Intersect, Amazon’s first music festival, which will be held in Las Vegas from December 6-7. The company is promoting the festival as an event “where music, technology, and art converge.” Headliners include the Foo Fighters, Beck, Brandi Carlile, Anderson .Paak, and H.E.R. So far, none of these artists have signed the open letter.

The festival immediately caught fire when one of the booked artists, the DJ known as the Black Madonna, tweeted that she was “furious” to find that Amazon is involved in the festival, saying that the company’s name was “on NONE of the offers or paperwork” she signed.

The DJ soon canceled her appearance at the festival, saying, “This issue is not just ideological for me, it is a moral and ethical transgression against my work, my faith and most importantly the people I stand with.”

The Black Madonna’s withdrawal created a tidal wave of condemnations that culminated in last week’s call for boycott.

“We will not allow Amazon to exploit our creativity to promote its brand while it enables attacks on immigrants, communities of color, workers, and local economies,” the letter reads. “We call on all artists who believe in basic rights and human dignity to join us.”

Signatories include Deerhoof, Ted Leo, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Zola Jesus, Immortal Technique, Priests, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Xiu Xiu, Sheer Mag, Downtown Boys, Jeff Rosenstock, and Sammus, among hundreds of others.

In July of this year, hundreds of immigration activists rallied in eight cities, including New York, against Amazon’s ties with ICE. On August 11, 44 activists were arrested while protesting outside of one of Amazon’s book stores in Manhattan. The day before, 100 protesters were arrested after shutting down parts of New York City’s West Side Highway.

According to the activist group Mijente, which has organized a series of petitions against Amazon, US authorities manage their immigration records with Palantir software, which enables ICE to track down potential deportees. Amazon, which is a big player in cloud computing, hosts these databases for Palantir.

“Every day, ICE uses technological weapons hosted on Amazon’s cloud to terrorize immigrant communities,” a petition on Mijente’s website reads. “Is Amazon proud to be providing the best available technology to Palantir so they can help ICE to detain and deport immigrants, families, and children? Is Amazon proud of enabling human rights abuses and Trump’s white supremacist agenda?”

Amazon has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

8 replies on “Over 800 Musicians Boycott Amazon Events Due to Company’s Ties with ICE”

  1. Who? Haha…yeah, go boycott, never heard of you. I prefer safe borders and safe communities. Your music only incites violence anyway…

    1. Looks like it’s time to educate yourself about U.S. intervention. The United States has a long history of involvement and intervention in Central America – and that’s at the root of today’s border crisis.

  2. With that list of “musicians”, I don’t think Amazon’s lacking, but has actually improved its inventory.

  3. ICE will always have our support. Not a big lover of Amazon, however. For all of you who support illegals from wherever they come from, perhaps you could move to those countries and make lives better for those people so they’ll stay home. We have enough people here in the U.S. who need our help and money and wasting it on all these fake asylum-seekers isn’t helping OUR citizens, is it? Strengthen the borders and let ICE do their job.

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