Amazon beefs up security to prevent protests against Project Nimbus

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Amazon appears to have significantly beefed up security for the Amazon Web Services Summit in New York on Wednesday. Two weeks ago, a number of activists disrupted the Washington, D.C., AWS Summit in protest of Project Nimbus, Amazon and Google’s $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with the Israeli government. The crackdown in New York thwarted several activists’ plans to disrupt a keynote speech by Matt Wood, vice president of AI products at AWS.

Amazon allowed only approved individuals to attend the keynote. Workers who had registered online to attend all received emails prior to the conference informing them that they would not be allowed to attend the keynote due to limited space.

In addition, the conference had a heavy presence of private security guards and New York Police Department and New York State Police personnel. Despite being barred from the keynote address, activists entered the building, where security personnel confiscated posters and flyers during a bag check, although not all attendees’ bags were checked.

Amazon previously said it respects its “employees’ rights to express themselves without fear of retaliation, intimidation, or harassment,” referring to the Project Nimbus protests. However, the increased security suggests the company is taking steps in an effort to thwart additional dissent. Google, for its part, laid off 50 employees after a high-profile protest in April over the company’s cloud-computing contract with the Israeli government.

All of the activists behind the planned keynote speech disruption are organizers of No Tech for Apathy (NOTA), a coalition of tech workers, organizers of the Muslim grassroots group Empower Change, and members of the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace. (NOTA was created in 2021 shortly after news about Project Nimbus became public.) The group planned the Google sit-in protests and other recent actions targeting Project Nimbus.

Those intending to disrupt Wood’s keynote address include former YouTube software engineer Zelda Montes and former Google software engineer Hassan Ibrahim. Both were among the 50 Google employees laid off in the spring. Jamie Kowalski, a former Amazon software employee who worked at the company for six years, Feras Hamad, a former Meta employee who was recently fired after raising concerns about anti-Palestinian censorship, and another tech employee who did not publicly reveal his name, also plan to protest.

Five other NOTA activists stood behind barricades just outside the AWS summit, handing out informational leaflets. They held large banners that read, “Google and Amazon workers say: Give up Nimbus, end the occupation, no tech for apartheid” and “AWS-powered genocide” above a photo of an area of ​​Gaza reduced to rubble.

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Photo: Caroline Haskins

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