By Lauren Rearick
More than 200 artists and other members of the music industry have disavowed the retail giant Amazon, after the company announced its inaugural Intersect music festival, which is set to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, in early December.
On Thursday (October 24), a coalition of artists announced the No Music For ICE! petition, Rolling Stone reported. Signed by artists including Speedy Ortiz, Deerhoof, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Priests, Downtown Boys, and Hurray for the Riff Raff, the petition is also open for public signature; in it, the artists pledge to not participate in Amazon-sponsored events or exclusive partnerships until Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of the company, stops providing services to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
As The Guardian reported, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE use AWS services as part of its methodology for keeping a reported database of migrants living in the United States; AWS also counts companies like McDonald’s, Condé Nast, Netflix, and Under Armour as either current or past clients. Per the MIT Technology Review, AWS servers help power the DHS’s database, which includes personal information, like fingerprints and facial scans, of an estimated 230 million migrants. The event would have been provided during ICE raids approved by President Donald Trump, The Washington Post reported.
No Music For ICE! was spearheaded in part by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, Joey La Neve DeFrancesco of Downtown Boys, Adult Mom, Evan Greer, Carmen Perry, and Jes Skolnik; the group pointed to Intersect as the catalyst for their movement. “After the lineup reveal, a lot of outrage focused on the artists who agreed to play the fest — many of them unwittingly supporting a company they have major concerns about,” Dupuis told MTV News. “Griping on Twitter is fine and good but how can we expect artists to say ‘no’ to something without articulating why that ‘no’ is crucial?”
Those that signed the petition have called on Amazon to “terminate existing contracts with military, law enforcement, and government agencies (ICE, CBP, ORR) that commit human rights abuses,” stop providing technology to organizations that work in deportations, to end the use of its facial recognition software, and to no longer work with any of these organizations in the future.
According to Greer, musicians are afforded a public platform that enables them to call for change, and this petition is one such instance. “We have a responsibility to use that power in solidarity with people who are resisting oppression and human rights abuses,” Greer told MTV News. “Our demands are very simple. But musicians are drawing a line in the sand. We won’t work with Amazon while they continue to run a surveillance-based business model that’s fundamentally at odds with basic human rights.”
As for Perry, she told MTV News that her involvement is personal. “As a Mexican-American person, the way Amazon and other American tech companies are supporting ICE and the DHS’s racist agenda against migrants is abhorrent to me,” she said. “It deeply upsets me to see Amazon attempting to make a move into my community by hosting their first music festival featuring some of our peers, and it felt important to try to take a stand and get other musicians involved.”
Perry, a member of the band Remember Sports, noted that No Music for ICE! doesn’t wish to shame or call out musicians already scheduled to perform at Intersect; according to reports by Billboard and Pitchfork, some artists said that they weren’t aware of Amazon’s involvement until the event was announced to the public on Thursday (October 17). However, No Music For ICE! does want scheduled artists to be permitted to back out of any contractually obligated Intersect performances should they wish to. One scheduled performer, The Black Madonna, has already cancelled her planned appearance, Billboard reported.
Amazon refuted claims that artists weren’t made aware of the company’s involvement in the festival, telling Billboard, “Our affiliation with Intersect Festival is clear in both the contract that was signed by Black Madonna’s management team and in the creative materials that were reviewed and approved. Amazon Web Services’ was named in the contract five separate times. Regardless, we’ve decided to release her from her contractual obligation.”
MTV News has reached out to Amazon for comment.