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."
“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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."