Amazon has noticeably bolstered security for its New York Amazon Web Services Summit held on Wednesday, following a series of disruptions by activists at the Washington, DC, AWS Summit in protest of Project Nimbus, the $1.2 billion cloud computing deal between Amazon, Google, and the Israeli government. The tightened security in New York forestalled the plans of multiple activists to disrupt the keynote address by Matt Wood, the AI products vice president at AWS.

Only pre-approved individuals were granted access to the keynote speech by Amazon. Activists, who had registered online for the event, were all notified via email prior to the summit that they would not be admitted to the keynote due to capacity constraints.

Furthermore, the summit saw a strong presence of private security guards along with personnel from the New York Police Department and New York State Police. Despite being refused entry to the keynote, the activists managed to enter the venue where security personnel confiscated posters and leaflets during bag inspections, a procedure not uniformly applied to all attendees.

Amazon previously stated that it upholds the rights of its employees to voice their opinions without the fear of reprisal, coercion, or harassment, particularly in relation to the Project Nimbus protests. Nonetheless, the increased security measures indicate the company’s efforts to prevent further dissent. In a similar vein, after a prominent protest in April over its cloud-computing agreement with the Israeli government, Google terminated 50 employees.

The activists organizing the planned disruption of Wood’s keynote belonged to No Tech for Apartheid (NOTA), a coalition of tech industry workers, organizers from the Muslim grassroots group MPower Change, and members of Jewish Voices for Peace, an anti-Zionist Jewish organization. NOTA was established in 2021 following the public disclosure of Project Nimbus. The group was responsible for the sit-in protest at Google and other recent actions opposing Project Nimbus.

Among those who intended to disrupt Wood’s keynote were Zelda Montes, a former YouTube software engineer, and Hasan Ibraheem, a former Google software engineer. Both were part of the group of 50 Google employees dismissed earlier in the year. Jamie Kowalski, a former Amazon software developer with six years of tenure, Ferras Hamad, a former Meta employee who was recently terminated for raising concerns about anti-Palestinian suppression, and another tech professional who opted to keep their identity undisclosed, had also planned to demonstrate.

Five other NOTA activists positioned themselves directly outside the AWS Summit, standing behind barricades and distributing informational pamphlets. They displayed large banners proclaiming “Google and Amazon Workers Say: Drop Nimbus, End the Occupation, No Tech for Apartheid”, and “Genocide Powered by AWS”, featuring an image of a Gaza neighborhood devastated by conflict.

Photograph: Caroline Haskins