Protesters march into lobby of Amazon investor calling for end in facial recognition sales to ICE and police

Protesters inside the lobby of Blackrock
Photo by Dean Moses

A series of rallies were held across the country on Monday outside of five Amazon shareholder locations prior to the May 26 shareholder meetings: Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, Vanguard, State Street, and Blackrock who together hold about 21% of Amazon’s shares. The New York City action took place at 55 East 52nd Street, the site of Blackrock — one of the e-tail giant’s shareholders.

Protesters say Amazon hurts working people outside Blackrock on East 52nd Street. Photo by Dean Moses

Here Amazon workers and activists assembled a wall of empty cardboard boxes outside the premises in addition to brandishing signs and a large banner reading #eyesonamazon. Chants denouncing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos rang out, turning the heads of those entering the property.

The protest asked shareholders, like Blackrock, to hold the online delivery service to a higher standard by increasing worker rights, cutting ties with police and ICE, reducing its carbon footprint, improving working conditions, and more. 

The claims brought on against Amazon have been cited from union leaders, workers, and activists who say that the conditions at Amazon facilities have only worsened during the pandemic. As rallies and protests push these issues to the forefront, some shareholders have filed resolutions challenging Amazon’s business practices against marginalized communities. These abhorrent practices include over-policing workers, communities, and small businesses using surveillance technology.  

“Amazon is facilitating the criminalization and incarceration of our Black, Brown and immigrant communities. Last week after relentless advocacy from grassroots organizations, Amazon finally extended its moratorium on the sale of recognition to police,” said Aly Panjwani, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, adding “Amazon must permanently ban the sale of recognition to police departments. Stop the development of broken facial recognition technology and end the use of all surveillance technology period.”

Protesters marched into the lobby, chanting. Photo by Dean Moses

Protesters targeted their anger with Amazon at Blackrock, who they believe is complicit in these unsavory and dangerous surveillance practices by remaining silent.  

“Blackrock you are complicit! Last summer you put out a statement on racial equity and inclusion. You said you would develop and launch products both focused on racial equity and social justice,” said Panjwani, who proceeded to list what they deem as dangerous facial recognition products such as Amazon ring, Amazon sidewalk, and Amazon web services.

“Come on Blackrock, cast a vote with our communities and not with Amazon’s destructive agenda. Vote ‘Yes’ on ending facial recognition and ‘Yes’ on cutting ties with ICE,” Panjwani said. 

Protesters invaded the lobby of Blackrock, marching through the large hall, chanting “Bezos, Bezos you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side!” 

Security guards prevented the group from reaching to the upper floors, however, they were handed a chart displaying what they claim are Amazon’s poor business practices, which they assured they would hand over to officials. 

In response to these claims, an Amazon spokesperson provided amNewYork Metro with the following statement: “Amazon is committed to the creation of good jobs, a sustainable future, flourishing communities, a strong economy, and successful small and medium-sized businesses. Since 2010, Amazon has made more than $350 billion in investments in corporate offices, customer fulfillment and cloud infrastructure, wind and solar farms, eco-friendly equipment and machinery, and compensation to our teams.”

amNewYork reached out to Blackrock comment.

Security officers prevented the group from continuing. Photo by Dean Moses

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