On Sept. 24, more than 50 UC Berkeley students and faculty members marched across campus and held a rally to protest the school’s continuing support of data technology companies that collaborate with ICE, and to celebrate the cancellation of a Palantir Technologies recruitment “info-session” that was to be hosted that day on campus.
Palantir Technologies, a data-tech company directly implicated in the workplace raids, deportations, and locking away of children in concentration camps by ICE, canceled their “info-session” following mass community protest.
Palantir arms ICE with facial recognition software and database technology. Their employees directly collaborate with ICE, often providing tech support over the phone with ICE agents during raids and deportations. They provide similar technology to the apartheid-enforcing Israel Defense Force as well as racist predictive policing software to police departments across the U.S.
Palantir canceled their recruitment session after more than 700 campus community members signed a petition organized by Cal Bears against ICE calling for the cancellation of the event. Some 500 pledged to attend a protest and direct action to disrupt the event if held.
Palantir obtained this info session and privileged status through the Corporate Access Program, a program that has allowed 43 companies pay $20,000 a year to hold recruitment sessions and promotional events on campus through the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.
As one organizer with the student coalition Cal Bears Against ICE put it, “We are having this event because UC Berkeley likes to use people of color to say this campus is very diverse, that it has a rich history of activism, that it is very inclusive and is at the forefront of liberalism, and then ultimately they throw these same students of color under the bus for a $20,000 contract with Palantir who works with ICE … so its like — do you not support your students when for $20,000 dollars you are willing to support these people who work with ICE on campus, you like to say we have undocumented students, we have resources for them, but then do this. … It’s pretty hypocritical.”
Chants of “No Tech For ICE” and “Palantir, you know it’s true, the crimes of ICE depend on you” filled the air, pointing out the sharp contrast between UC Berkeley’s self-proclaimed status as a progressive institution and the reality of their actions motivated by profit.
Despite its status as a “sanctuary campus” and the city of Berkeley itself being the first sanctuary city, UC Berkeley is still unwilling to follow through with this sentiment, continuing their support for a Palantir recruiting event even when Palantir itself pulled out.
As students marched past California Hall, housing Chancellor Carol Christ’s office, they chanted, “Carol Christ, you know it’s true, the crimes of ICE depend on you,” pointing out the hypocrisy between the campus’s words and its actions. Students then marched through the historic Sather Gate and onto the Free Speech Monument, contrasting the school administration’s idealization of its radical past with its resistance to present-day progressive voices.
Revival of school’s radical past
As one organizer with Bears Against ICE, Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky, put it: “We view this as not a cancellation but rather a postponement. As long as Palantir is part of CAP, we’ll continue to have rallies and petitions to hold them accountable.” Clearly, despite the administration’s resistance, some elements of the school’s radical past have not died out.
Mamedov-Turchinsky went on to state: “As a Jewish person, I’ve been taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. Now, with adults and children alike detained in unacceptable conditions, ICE terrorizing immigrants in every corner of the country, and people dying at the border while seeking safety in the U.S., we cannot wait to take action. We refuse to wait and see what happens next. We know we’re not going to just vote our way out of this cruel and unjust immigration system — organize!”
In recent weeks, the Party for Socialism and Liberation has participated with the Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps — Bay Area to hold similar actions at Palantir headquarters in Palo Alto. Actions targeting companies and institutions complicit in ICE terror can help raise popular consciousness and compel ever larger numbers of people into struggle, building momentum towards the sort of truly mass movement needed to secure full rights for all immigrants.