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How Amazon Helps Fund the Police and Three Reasons It Must Stop

Police foundations are policing’s best-kept secret. A growing movement is working to stop it.

by Vanessa Butterworth

October 14, 2020

If you’ve never heard of police foundations, you’re not alone.

Police foundations were policing’s best-kept secret — until now — and Amazon is in the thick of it.

It’s been five months since George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police. Ever since, calls to defund the police have gained traction nationwide, tens of thousands of people have loudly condemned police violence and his murders and the murder of Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and too many others. But even with all the protests, the government and corporations haven’t yet acted in ways to create real, significant change.

Amazon gives dark money donations to police foundations.

Enter Amazon.

Even though Amazon has prominently come out against racial inequity, Amazon still gives dark money donations to police foundations who then give massive amounts of cash to some of the biggest police departments, without any public oversight. This is absolutely inexcusable.

Over the past few months, we’ve teamed up with Color Of Change to call out Amazon because it’s not enough for one of the world’s biggest corporations to say it wants to end racism — it needs to take real action. If we’re loud enough, we can push Amazon to divest from policing and stop being complicit in terrorizing Black, Brown, and Indigenous (BIPOC) communities.

There’s no reason tech corporations like Amazon need to donate to policing and only pretend to care about racial equity.

Funding police departments without any public scrutiny or budget oversight is so atrocious. It’s absolutely not enough for corporations to say they want racial equity — they need to prove it with their money. Tell Amazon: divest from police foundations now!

Earlier in the year, LittleSis released a groundbreaking report outlining how over 200 police foundations in the U.S. use dark money donations from some of the world’s largest corporations and polluters — including Amazon, Chevron, Marathon Petroleum, Verizon, Walmart, Starbucks, Bank of America, Target, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Waffle House, and many more  to give massive amounts of funding to the nation’s biggest police departments outside of public scrutiny or budget oversight.

Police foundations are private, corporate-sponsored entities that supplement already bloated police budgets and serve powerful interests.

Police foundations — like massive corporations or oil companies — serve wealthy and powerful interests, not people. They partner with corporations to raise money to supplement police budgets, fund policing programs, and purchase new or controversial equipment for law enforcement outside of public scrutiny or budgetary oversight, including surveillance technology, military weapons, SWAT team equipment, and other tools that terrorize Black and Brown people. They also act as free PR for police departments — contributing to misconceptions about crime and the normalization of constant and growing policing while funding crime hotlines and “deputy for a day” programs that enable vigilantes to commit harm to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

From NYC to LA, they raise money from wealthy corporations like Amazon to help cops acquire surveillance tech, SWAT team equipment, and weapons designed to target and systematically oppress BIPOC communities. And, they do it outside of public scrutiny or budget oversight.

Thankfully, in the past few months, Color of Change and over 40 organizations have been pressuring corporations to divest from police foundations. Thousands of messages have been sent to various companies from people like you with amazing results. Wells Fargo has announced it will “pause” all contributions to police foundations and we’re waiting on active policy decisions from several more corporations. But we need to keep up the pressure!

That’s why it’s so important we pressure Amazon right now. Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world. His wealth has increased by $88.9 billion in the past five months and Amazon is worth more than $1.7 trillion.

If Amazon divests from police foundations, many others will follow.

And, here’s the thing.

Amazon’s image is its most valuable asset. Jeff Bezos doesn’t want to be associated with racist police departments and practices. If you speak out, I know we can pressure Amazon to stop giving money to police foundations.

Send this message to Amazon and Jeff Bezos right now: Stop your recklessness! Divest from police foundations that have helped grow and militarize the police at the expense of Black and Brown communities.

Racism is a root cause of the climate crisis.

For too long, fossil fuel companies, chemical companies, and other mega-polluters have treated BIPOC communities as sacrifice zones polluting air, land, and water where people live. This environmental racism is part of the broader racism in this country, and it continues with devastating impacts.

If everyone in the U.S. doesn’t work to end racism, elites will be all too willing to let BIPOC communities suffer the intensifying heat, fires, storms, and rising seas of climate change while continuing their destruction for profit. It’s that simple. Corporate polluters funding police foundations are an example of how climate justice and racial justice are even more connected. The same companies causing climate chaos are also propping up the institutions that keep Black and Brown communities oppressed.

Greenpeace exists to dismantle the system of corporate power that puts profit before people and the planet.  Join us and tell Amazon to divest from police foundations now.

Vanessa Butterworth

By Vanessa Butterworth

Vanessa currently works as the Senior Digital Strategist at Greenpeace and sits on the Rising Tide North America organizing team. Outside of paid work, she organizes with frontline groups against police brutality, gentrification, and environmental racism. Over the past ten years, she's worked on campaign, mobilization, direct action, and movement strategy across the US and Canada. She's originally from Mississauga of the New Credit Territory as known as Caledon, Ontario, but now lives in Oakland, California on Ohlone Territory.

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