Update 3-17 11:26PM: There is a report that Amazon may end up quitting Northern Virginia as they gave up in NYC, apparently they fear the wrath of the people more than bought-and-paid for politicians do.
On the 16th of March, the Arlington County Board met to discuss a multi-million dollar giveaway to Amazon and Jeff Bezos for HQ2, possibly the richest man in the world. Protesters disrupted the hearing, calling affordable housing and similar priorities more important than Amazon. Disregarding the public dissent, the board voted to approve the funding package by 5 to zero.
The Washington Post reported that the board twice had to leave the room as protest heated up. A smaller number of pro-Amazon protesters were also present, unknown if any of them were paid by Amazon to be there. Media outlets have published figured for the value of the giveaway to Amazon of between $23 million and up to $51 million.
Amazon had to pull out of NYC after public opposition to an Amazon HQ2 site there exploded. Concerns there as in Alexandria centered on Amazon’s history of driving huge rent hikes and housing price increases along with traffic and transit problems in Seattle. In Alexandria a substantial lower-income Latino community is at risk of displacement if this is repeated in Virginia. Not only are Virginia politicians not trying to stop Amazon though, they are rolling out the red carpet for them with public giveaways.
In addition to the housing and traffic issues, Amazon is being called out for collaborating with ICE, letting ICE used Amazon’s “Rekognition” facial recognition software to target people for deportation. Perhaps this software and service should be renamed “ReKKKognition” to recognize that ICE is one of it’s users. In addition to ICE, police departments are also buying the software, using it to profile “undesirable” people and no doubt to track protesters and organizers. The software is so inaccurate that it reportedly matched photos of 28 members of Congres to mugshots taken of others who had been arrested by police. Such matches against the general public can lead to anything from stop-and-frisk incidents to house raids by heavily armed SWAT teams.