Twelve people were arrested during a protest Thursday night in the lobby of Amazon’s Cambridge office. The protesters were charged with trespassing, according to the Cambridge Police Department, and taken away in plastic zip-tie handcuffs.
The arrests took place during a protest organized by Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group. Several hundred people marched from the Holocaust memorial in Boston to the Amazon building to protest the company's business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Never Again Action activist Elizabeth Weinbloom says the organization was targeting Amazon’s work providing data systems, information management systems and cloud-based storage systems to ICE.
“Amazon would like us to think that these tools are neutral — that they're just tools,” Weinbloom said. “But these tools are being crafted specifically for law enforcement systems to track these communities and terrorize them with raids and detentions and eventually deportations. These are tools that are not neutral because they are being used to commit these atrocities.”
Amazon and Amazon Cambridge did not respond to requests for comment.
At the protest, this message was repeated through a series of speeches, songs, megaphone announcements, chants of “shame,” and “the whole world is watching,” and Jewish prayers. About 200 of the marchers eventually settled into the Amazon lobby and spilled out on to the sidewalk.
Never Again Action has organized dozens of protests across the country, targeting organizations and businesses that have worked with ICE. In July, eighteen activists from the group were arrested outside the Suffolk County House of Corrections, an ICE detention facility.
“Never Again has been targeting all parts of our deportation machine that is terrorizing immigrant communities,” Weinbloom said. “That means targeting both the detention centers and also the companies that are complicit in allowing the system to continue.”
Several activists compared Amazon’s involvement with ICE to technology company IBM’s involvement with Adolf Hitler’s government during World War II. Activists drew comparisons to how IBM’s technology helped to facilitate the genocide of Jewish people during the holocaust. “IBM built and developed punch card systems and other data processing systems,” Weinbloom said. “It’s the 1930’s version of what we're talking about today with Amazon.”
The activists are demanding that Amazon cut all ties and cease all business with ICE.
“If IBM had simply said, ‘we are not going to do business with the Nazis,’ the history would be a whole lot different,” activist Ari Fertig said. “Similarly if Amazon simply said, ‘you know what, we're not going to do business with ICE,’ it would be a whole lot different. I believe that corporations have a responsibility to act ethically, and that one way to do that is to cut their ties to ICE.”
Members of Never Again Action have been criticized for using the term “concentration camps” to describe to immigrant detention facilities at the U.S. border. Fertig says the message of the organization is not necessarily to equate the two.
“I don't believe that ICE and Nazis are equivalent,” he said. “But the question is, why should we have to let it get to that place? We should be able to learn from history without having to repeat history.”
Activist Ben Lorber studies white nationalism and antisemitism for a social justice think tank. He says Never Again Action is protesting the Trump administration at large.
“The Trump administration is repeating these dog whistle anti-Semitic statements that have inspired white nationalists to attack Jews in our synagogues,” he said. “This is the same administration that's rounding up immigrants and deporting them, and we see this as very connected.”