By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Immigration activists attempted to deliver more than 270,000 petitions to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos during a protest at his new home across from Madison Square Park during a protest on Monday afternoon during Amazon’s Prime Day. Activists were calling on Bezos to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and end abusive working conditions at Amazon warehouses.
The company started Prime Day last year offering deals for members of the Amazon Prime and the protest was organized specifically on Prime Day as part of a national day of action against the company. Representatives and activists from New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, ALIGN NY, NYC-DSA, Mijente, DRUM, JFREJ, MPower Change, Workers United SEIU, Tech Workers Coalition and Chhaya CDC, as well as immigrant families and former Amazon workers, participated in the protest, which started on the northern end of Madison Square Park and marched to the West 26th Street entrance of Bezos’ apartment at 212 Fifth Avenue.
Curbed reported at the beginning of June that Bezos had purchased three condos, including a penthouse previously listed for $58 million, in the building. The penthouse that Bezos reportedly purchased is a triplex with five bedrooms, five bathrooms and almost 6,000 square feet of outdoor space. The Wall Street Journal reported that the total value of the apartments Bezos bought in the building was around $80 million.
One former Amazon warehouse worker who spoke at the protest, detailing the long hours with no breaks that employees have reportedly been subjected to. While speaking about working with insufficient lunch and bathroom breaks, the former Amazon employee held up a clear water bottle with an unnamed yellow liquid, although an organizer assured protesters that the mystery liquid was not urine.
Jagpreet Singh, a housing and community organizer with Chhaya CDC, said that the immigrant community has a number of issues with Bezos’ company.
“Amazon has destroyed so many small businesses in New York City,” Singh said. “But we’re here today to call out Amazon’s support of ICE. Our communities are afraid because of what the [Trump] administration says about supposed ICE raids and with their partnership, Amazon is just as responsible as ICE is in destroying our communities.”
Documents leaked at the end of last week showed that Amazon Web Services is willing to provide ICE with a video system that identifies people, objects, text and scenes and offers accurate facial analysis. amNewYork reported on Friday that although ICE does not have a specific contract with Amazon for facial recognition technology, they do have a contract with Four Points Technology to use Amazon Web Services for unspecified cloud solutions and ICE has used facial recognition technology to identify undocumented immigrants.
Following speeches from activists and chants in front of the Fifth Avenue building, the protest marched to Amazon’s headquarters in Midtown.