Image: Phil Murphy, Flickr
Right now, Amazon has a prominent banner on its homepage that reads: “Black lives matter: Amazon stands in solidarity with the Black community.” The company has also tweeted about its “solidarity with the Black community” in “the fight against systemic racism and injustice.”
But as thousands take to the streets in a historic wave of action to defend Black lives against rampant and systemic police violence, Amazon has been using one of its charitable arms to help fund police foundations that purchase surveillance equipment and weaponry for police forces and offer networks of corporate and civic support that help prop up police power.
AmazonSmile is an Amazon website through which shoppers can purchase products, and the AmazonSmile Foundation then donates “0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization” of the shopper’s choice. Through AmazonSmile, Amazon helps to fund police foundations across the U.S. – an arrangement actively promoted by these police foundations.
- The Los Angeles Police Foundation tweeted in December 2019: “Planning on shopping tomorrow for Cyber Monday? When you shop @AmazonSmile, Amazon will make a donation to Los Angeles Police Foundation,” with the hashtag #SupportLAPD
Planning on shopping tomorrow for Cyber Monday? When you shop @AmazonSmile, Amazon will make a donation to Los Angeles Police Foundation. #CyberMonday #SupportLAPD #amazonsmile https://t.co/kYvdaYiJoR— LA Police Foundation (@LAPoliceFdtn) December 1, 2019
- The Chicago Police Foundation’s homepage currently promotes an AmazonSmile banner to accept donations. It reads: “Support Chicago Police Foundation. When you shop at amazon.smile.com, Amazon donates.”
- The Seattle Police Foundation grants funds for the Seattle Police Department in the area of “Police Service Enhancements – Cutting-edge and specialized equipment and technology.” The Seattle Police Foundation’s website also includes a link to donate through AmazonSmile.
- The San Diego Police Officers Association tweeted in July 2019: “Attention members, friends, families, and followers! Now, when you shop @amazonsmile, Amazon will make a donation to the San Diego Police Officers Association Foundation. Click the link to donate today!” The SDPOA says it “represents the more than 1,850 dedicated and professional sworn members of the #SDPD.”
- The Cleveland Police Foundation posted a call for donations through AmazonSmile on its website in November 2019.
- The National Police Foundation tweeted in November 2018: “If you are still finishing up your #BlackFriday shopping, or getting ready for #CyberMonday, you can help support the mission of the National Police Foundation to advance policing through innovation and science by shopping through #AmazonSmile.“
Amazon’s funding of police foundations comes amidst mounting calls from protesters to defund the police and spend municipal resources on community needs.
Moreover, over the last several years, Amazon has been exposed for myriad anti-worker and anti-BIPOC activities. These include firing their own workers for speaking out against hazardous working conditions in their warehouses which are disproportionately staffed by Black, Lantinx, and Asian workers, patenting invasive surveillance technologies to track their warehouse workforce’s every move, and selling white supremacist literature and propoganda, including The Turner Diaries, a foundational white supremacist text, on their popular retail website.
Amazon also has a long history of partnering with the police, including giving over 1300 departments access to data from their Ring cameras and marketing their Rekognition facial recognition software as a law enforcement surveillance tool. They also provide technical services to ICE and have been called ICE’s “invisible backbone” as the agency enforced Trump’s “no-tolerance” immigration policy.
But Amazon is doing more than just partnering with police: they are helping to fundraise for them as well.
Amazon cannot have it both ways: it cannot proclaim that Black Lives Matter while it continues to fund police foundations that purchase surveillance technology, weaponry, and other products that are used against Black lives and which help sustain police power and a lack of police accountability through civic and corporate backing. Amazon must break with police foundations and stop donating to them.