Salesforce's contract with Customs and Border Protection has been controversial among employees and people outside the company.
- On Tuesday, three protesters interrupted Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff's keynote at Dreamforce, the company's largest conference.
- The protesters spoke about Salesforce's controversial contract with Customs and Border Protection.
- Benioff said on stage that he let the protester speak "because I value free speech in this country."
- Read more on Business Insider's homepage.
Three protesters disrupted the keynote at Salesforce's largest conference on Tuesday over the company's contract with Customs and Border Protection.
While Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff was speaking at Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual conference in San Francisco, one protester interrupted and spoke about the controversial contract.
Benioff has been outspoken about progressive causes, but the company's contract with CBP has been controversial with employees and outside the company. In an interview earlier this year, Benioff said he struggled with the decision to work with the agency, but ultimately the company decided to keep the contract.
On stage on Tuesday, Benioff said the protester would have 30 seconds to talk before they had to leave. A 30-second timer was then displayed on the giant screen.
After the time was up, security officers escorted the protester, Julien Ball with the San Francisco Democratic Socialists of America, out of the keynote.
Ball reminded Benioff that last year over 650 Salesforce employees wrote a letter to him criticizing the company's work with CBP as families were being separated at the border.
Ball also said that despite Salesforce's talk about values, Benioff ignored these protests.
As Ball was escorted out, Benioff told the crowd that he let the protester speak because he believes in free speech.
"I let him stop the program and speak for 30 seconds because I value free speech in this country," Benioff said.
Later in the keynote, two more protesters interrupted.
"We heard from your group, and we will be happy to have a further conversation with you," Benioff told a protester. "We will be happy to give you other opportunities to speak. Thank you very much."
Ball said the San Francisco DSA worked with Bay Resistance and the Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps to protest at Dreamforce.
"We decided to protest because we don't want to live in a country that demonizes and oppresses immigrant communities," Ball told Business Insider. "There are tech companies which are complicit. Given Marc Benioff's other humanitarian work, we'd like him to step up and do the right thing."
Besides the keynote interruptions, about 25 people protested outside Dreamforce, holding banners and a Benioff puppet.
"The family separation, caging of children, and mass internment of immigrants in concentration camps in horrific conditions is unacceptable," Bert Knorr, one of the protesters outside with the San Francisco DSA, told Business Insider. "Salesforce is profiting from these human-rights abuses. This is in direct contradiction to the stated values of the company, which claims to be socially responsible and operating in the public good."
Activists have previously demonstrated outside Salesforce Tower over the contract. When Salesforce last year donated $250,000 to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, the immigration nonprofit known as RAICES, the group rejected it and demanded that Salesforce cancel the contract.
Salesforce isn't the only company being criticized for its work with immigration government agencies. Amazon, Palantir, Microsoft, and GitHub have also faced protests over their business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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