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APEC protesters hang banner over Bay Bridge, kicking off week of protests in San Francisco

An aerial photo shows a large yellow banner reading "Biden and APEC: End Fossil Fuels" sitting above a tunnel with cars streaming through.
An aerial photo shows a large yellow banner reading "Biden and APEC: End Fossil Fuels" above the Yerba Buena Tunnel in San Francisco on Wednesday. | Source: Courtesy Brooke Anderson

As the city prepares to host thousands of foreign dignitaries and journalists for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, environmental activists kicked off what promises to be a busy week of protests in San Francisco by hanging over the Bay Bridge a massive yellow banner calling for President Joe Biden to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

Biden is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco Nov. 14 to attend the global economic summit, and law enforcement officials expect a heavy presence from Bay Area community action groups as well as activists from elsewhere who are expected to descend on the city to voice their views.

The banner placed conspicuously over the Yerba Buena Tunnel Wednesday reads “Biden & APEC: End Fossil Fuels." It was hung by activists with the Oil and Gas Action Network, who have called for the U.S. to honor the Paris Climate Accords, end domestic fossil fuel production and support "global efforts to remedy the historic inequities of pollution and exploitation of workers."

An aerial photo shows a large yellow banner reading "Biden and APEC: End Fossil Fuels" posted in front of buildings on San Francisco's Yerba Buena Island and a view of the city's skyline.
An aerial photo shows a large yellow banner reading "Biden and APEC: End Fossil Fuels" above the Yerba Buena Tunnel in San Francisco on Wednesday. | Source: Courtesy Brooke Anderson

“Our collective humanity is at stake, said Khrizia Velacruz, a climate activist and organizer for the Oil and Gas Action Network, in a press release. "We refuse to allow President Biden and other APEC leaders to continue business-as-usual in the face of record-breaking extreme weather and the existential threats of the climate crisis. They must prioritize a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, and center the voices of frontline communities in building a new clean energy economy."

Environmentalists have criticized the Biden administration’s approval of new fossil fuel projects, including the Willow Pipeline in Alaska and the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Appalachia. Under President Biden, U.S. exports of crude oil are at historic levels.

A group of more than two dozen people sit in front of the White House with a black cylindrical sign reading "no fracking pipeline." The protesters are also holding red umbrellas and signs protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is used for transporting fossil fuels.
Protesters demonstrate against the installation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in front of the White House on June 8, 2023. | Source: Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A heavy lineup of demonstrations are expected as APEC kicks off next week. The No to APEC Coalition, made up of over 100 community, grassroots, and labor organizations, is planning a huge march on Sunday from the Harry Bridges Plaza in the Embarcadero toward Moscone Center, where the summit is being held.

READ MORE: As APEC Looms, San Francisco’s Filipino American Community Criticizes Summit’s Legacy

On Saturday, the group also plans to hold a "counter-summit" in order "to expose APEC’s false solutions and build a movement to address the very real crises of climate change, economic crisis, and militarization," said a spokesperson for the group in a press release.

The coalition argues that the high-profile meeting of dignitaries doesn't include people who are negatively impacted by free-trade agreements, including workers, women and migrants in the U.S. and across the Asia-Pacific region.

An aerial photo of Mascone center
Aerial photos were taken of the Moscone Center before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in San Francisco. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

APEC is considered the most important international event in San Francisco since the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945. Security will be tight and traffic will be restricted around Moscone Center, which is hosting the conference, as well as in Nob Hill around the hotel where Biden and other officials are staying.

Gridlock is expected as a result of the closures, and some residents living inside the affected zones, particularly those who rely on their cars to get around, such as older and disabled people, worry that their lives could be disrupted by the lockdown.

READ MORE: Bay Bridge Closure: APEC Security Measures Will Close Bridge Lanes, Causing Traffic Chaos

San Francisco is also working to clean up its image ahead of APEC, adding thousands of plants in the area that's hosting the summit and undertaking extra cleanups of trash and graffiti around the city's highways.

A woman in profile walks to the left in front of an embankment covered in wood chips with low-lying shrubs planted sparsely throughout it. Behind the embankment is a mural depicting, from left to right, a boombox, a woman's face in profile with stylized feathers next to it, and a woman with flowers in her hair and other designs facing the viewer.
Bay Area artist Dee Jae Pa’este created the "Woven Kultura" mural, which was inspired by traditional Filipino textile designs and pre-colonial art symbols from Mexico, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, and the Philippines in San Francisco. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

"We don't want dignitaries coming in on [Highway] 101 and seeing graffiti," said Cheryl Chambers, Caltrans deputy district director of external affairs.

Officials are all too aware that San Francisco's image has taken a hit as the city has become associated with challenges such as drugs and homelessness. Ahead of the conference, some international publications have taken the opportunity to criticize San Francisco, calling it a "ghost town" and a "total failure."

APEC will also affect some businesses and government offices, forcing the temporary closure of the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts and limiting hours at the San Francisco Superior Court.

What exactly is APEC, and why is San Francisco hosting part of it this year? KQED journalist and APEC Host Committee Press Ambassador Priya David Clemens explains. | Video by Jesse Rogala

Garrett Leahy can be reached at