In a dramatic display of civic unrest, the streets of San Francisco became a battleground as thousands of protesters converged to voice their vehement opposition to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The city, which has not seen such a significant gathering of global leaders since 1945, was thrust into chaos as demonstrators clashed with riot police in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings.
The protesters, a diverse coalition of activists, expressed their discontent with what they perceive as the prioritization of corporate interests over human rights and environmental concerns. Their chants accused President Biden of deceit and indifference to pressing global issues, including environmental degradation and international conflicts.
Earlier this morning, “No 2 APEC” protestors were confronted by San Francisco police officers in riot gear on Mission and Fifth streets.📷: | Gina Castro#APEC #USAPEC2023 #APEC2023SF pic.twitter.com/xOgbvlQpdT
— The San Francisco Standard (@sfstandard) November 15, 2023
San Francisco officials had taken extensive measures to present the city in the best possible light for the summit, going so far as to conduct a massive clean-up operation to shield visiting dignitaries from the city’s homeless population. This sanitization effort, however, did little to quell the discontent brewing on the streets.
The summit, which commenced on a Saturday and is scheduled to run through November 17, saw high-profile guests such as the CEOs of Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce in attendance. California Governor Gavin Newsom and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom were among the local dignitaries welcoming Chinese leader Xi Jinping upon his arrival.
#HappeningNow: 5th & Mission; demonstrators link arms to
block intersection. Protest organized by “No to APEC” coalition. Dozens of @SFPD in riot gear about a half block away from them. @KTVU pic.twitter.com/LZ2HjCi7Yn
— Allie Rasmus KTVU (@arasmusKTVU) November 15, 2023
Amidst the pomp and circumstance of international diplomacy, the voices of the protesters echoed through downtown San Francisco. They marched against what they labeled as the facade of “clean” and “green” economies, which they argue merely bolster corporate profits at the expense of the environment and working conditions.
The No APEC Coalition, a prominent group within the protests, described the summit as an elitist gathering that serves the interests of big business rather than the common good. Their website articulated a staunch opposition to APEC’s free trade agenda, which they claim leads to exploitation and environmental harm.
As the summit attendees made their way to the event, they were met with shouts and taunts from the protesters, who implored them not to enter. Despite the demonstrators’ efforts, including a human barricade that temporarily halted a motorcade of around ten vehicles, the summit continued as planned.
The tension between the protesters and law enforcement reached a fever pitch when riot police lined up to keep a watchful eye on the demonstrators. The police presence was heavy, with officers donning riot gear to control the crowd and ensure the safety of summit participants.
The APEC summit, which includes 21 member countries such as the United States, China, Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines, aims to foster economic cooperation across the Asia-Pacific region. However, this year’s summit in San Francisco will be remembered not only for its diplomatic dialogues but also for the stark reminder of the deep divisions and fervent activism that continue to shape public discourse on global economic policies.