Marc Benioff gave a protester who interrupted his speech 30 seconds to talk, with a giant countdown clock displayed on the conference screen, 'because I value free speech'

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce 2013

Three protesters disrupted Salesforce's largest conference on Tuesday over the company's contract with the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

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 both with employees and outside the company. In a previous interview, Benioff said he struggled with the decision to work with CBP, but ultimately the company decided to keep the contract.

Onstage, Benioff said that the protester would have 30 seconds to talk before having to leave. A 30-second timer was then displayed on the giant screen. After time was up, security escorted the protester out of the keynote.

Benioff then 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 onstage.

Later during the keynote, two more protesters interrupted.

"We heard from your group and we will be happy to have a further conversation with you," Benioff said onstage to a protester. "We will be happy to give you other opportunities to speak, thank you very much."

Last year, over 650 Salesforce employees wrote a letter to Benioff criticizing the company's work with CBP at a time when families are being separated at the border. Activists have also demonstrated outside Salesforce tower. When Salesforce donated $250,000 to the immigration non-profit called The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, the group rejected it and demanded that Salesforce cancel the contract.

Salesforce isn't the only company under fire for its work with immigration government agencies. Amazon, Palantir, Microsoft, and GitHub have also faced protests over business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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