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Activists vow to disrupt San Francisco’s APEC summit with mass protests

Several people stand behind a banner with their fist raised.
Attendees of the anti-APEC summit “People and Planet Over Profit and Plunder” pose for a photo at San Francisco State on Saturday. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

An anti-APEC event drew over a thousand attendees in San Francisco on Saturday as activists plan two large demonstrations this week to oppose the high-profile summit of world leaders.

The No to APEC Coalition—an umbrella group of over 150 grassroots organizations—criticized the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum for pushing “free trade” to the detriment of Indigenous people around the world.

RELATED: Several Protests a Day Expected in San Francisco During APEC

“We have people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, who are opposed to APEC and its agenda,” Rhonda Ramiro, the U.S. chapter chair of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, told The Standard. “[APEC] has impoverished people around the world, destroyed the environment, killed jobs and is going to continue promoting more of the same.”

Many Filipino American activists showed up at this “counter summit” event at San Francisco State University to voice their opposition to APEC.

“The Philippines is a showcase in the devastation of neoliberal economics,” Ramiro said. 

She said foreign companies came to the Philippines for mineral resources and profits and left the land empty and infertile for agriculture.

A tight photo of a "Not to APEC" logo on a green tshirt.
A volunteer for the anti-APEC summit “People and Planet Over Profit and Plunder,” wears an anti-APEC shirt at San Francisco State on Saturday. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

While activists gear up to get their message heard, San Francisco is doing everything it can to facilitate a successful APEC, including ramping up security, rerouting traffic and broadcasting a marketing campaign to promote the event. Leaders and wealthy sponsors of the summit are also hosting fancy events and celebrations across the city.

Established in 1989, APEC focuses on promoting free trade and business development among the 21 member economies around the Pacific Rim regions, including China, Japan, Canada and the U.S. 

Since its founding, the forum has grown into one of the most important political gatherings for the Asia-Pacific region. Meetings are held annually and rotate among member countries. Meetings of lower-level diplomats are held throughout the year and culminate in “Leaders Week,” during which heads of state meet as a group. With so many top officials in one place at one time, the gathering also presents opportunities for important bilateral meetings. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to meet with President Joe Biden next week in the Bay Area on the sidelines of the summit.

Two Planned Protests

Organizers said they are planning two protests—one on Sunday and the other on Wednesday that aim to shut down APEC, which is being held at Moscone Center in the SoMa neighborhood. A parallel event, the APEC CEO Summit, is being held at Moscone West.

The Sunday protest will start at noon at Embarcadero Plaza, with protesters marching to Moscone Center. Wednesday’s protest starts at 7 a.m. at the Powell Street BART Station and will target the CEOs and top leaders to prevent them from entering the venues.

Protesters are coming from all over the world, according to the organizers.

Manuel Hidalgo, a leader at the International Migrants Alliance, traveled from Chile to San Francisco to attend the anti-APEC protests. He told The Standard in Spanish that he represented the migrant workers to fight elite foreign corporations that often come to developing countries under the guise of free trade but drive out local businesses and residents.

Several people stand behind a banner with their fist raised.
Attendees of the anti-APEC summit “People and Planet Over Profit and Plunder” pose for a photo at San Francisco State University on Saturday. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

It’s unclear how close the protesters will get to the center of APEC activities, as the neighborhood around the Moscone Center will be under tight security and more than a thousand outside law enforcement officers are coming to San Francisco to deal with any potential disruption.

Even so, Ramiro said, “we are planning a mass action to confront and get as close as we can to the Moscone Center.”

Han Li can be reached at han@sfstandard.com

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