Activists to Protest at APEC Summit in San Francisco, Targeting Corporate and Environmental Issues, and Israel-Hamas Conflict

by Ethan Kim
APEC Summit Protests

This Sunday, San Francisco will witness a convergence of activists protesting a myriad of issues, ranging from corporate gains and environmental damage to poor labor conditions and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. These demonstrations are timed with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, attracting world leaders like President Joe Biden and representatives from nearly two dozen nations.

The week-long APEC leaders’ meeting is set to bring together over 20,000 participants, including a significant presence of international media. The No to APEC coalition, comprising over 100 grassroots organizations, is vocal in its criticism of the summit. They argue that trade agreements finalized at such gatherings often exploit workers and their families.

Although the Moscone Center and other summit venues will be heavily secured, making it unlikely for world leaders to see the protests firsthand, activists remain determined. Suzanne Ali, from the Palestinian Youth Movement, emphasizes the need for the U.S. to be accountable for its role in the Israel-Hamas conflict, particularly regarding arms supplies to Israel.

Despite the limited visibility of the protests to the summit attendees, Ali believes their collective action and presence will send a strong message. San Francisco, known for its history of emphatic protests, has seen similar demonstrations in the past. The 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle is a notable example, where protests garnered global attention amid severe police response.

Recent APEC summits have also faced protest-related disruptions. In 2019, Chile had to withdraw from hosting duties due to widespread protests, and the 2020 Bangkok summit saw pro-democracy demonstrations challenging the Thai government.

San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott anticipates several protests each day during the summit. He asserts the right to peaceful protest but warns against any acts of violence or crime, vowing to take necessary action in such cases.

APEC, with 21 member nations including major economies like China and the U.S., is also hosting a CEO summit this week, which is drawing criticism and planned protests. Particularly notable is the expected meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s stringent security measures during such events contrast sharply with the open protest environment expected in San Francisco. In China, extensive security is deployed, and human rights activists often face preemptive warnings against demonstrating.

Rory McVeigh, a sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame, notes that protests can influence political leaders and public opinion, especially when they gain media attention. Various groups, including the United Vietnamese American Community of Northern California and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, are set to protest against leaders like Xi Jinping and Philippine President Bongbong Marcos.

The choice of San Francisco as the summit’s host city has drawn criticism from activists like Nik Evasco, a climate advocate. They argue that it contradicts the city’s legacy of championing worker rights, as it welcomes leaders and CEOs allegedly responsible for exacerbating current global crises.

This report includes contributions from Huizhong Wu of Big Big News, reporting from Bangkok.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about APEC Summit Protests

What is the primary focus of the protests planned in San Francisco during the APEC summit?

The protests are centered around various issues including corporate profits, environmental abuses, poor working conditions, and the Israel-Hamas conflict. Activists aim to express their dissent against these issues in the backdrop of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ conference.

Who is organizing the protests against the APEC summit in San Francisco?

The protests are being organized by the No to APEC coalition, which consists of over 100 grassroots groups. They are uniting to voice their concerns about the negative impacts of trade deals made during summits like APEC, particularly on workers and their families.

Will world leaders attending the APEC summit be able to see the protests?

It is unlikely that world leaders will witness the protests directly due to strict security measures at the Moscone Center conference hall and other summit locations. The protests are planned to take place in downtown San Francisco, away from these secured zones.

What are the San Francisco Police Department’s expectations and warnings regarding the APEC summit protests?

San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott expects several protests daily during the summit. While acknowledging the right to peaceful protest, he warns against violence, property destruction, or any criminal behavior, stating that the police will make arrests if necessary.

What historical context is there for protests during major trade summits like APEC?

San Francisco, and trade talks in general, have a history of significant protests. For example, the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle saw large-scale protests that captured global attention. Additionally, recent APEC summits in Chile and Thailand were disrupted by mass protests.

More about APEC Summit Protests

  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
  • No to APEC Coalition
  • San Francisco Police Department
  • 1999 Seattle WTO Protests
  • Human Rights Activism in China
  • Center for the Study of Social Movements, University of Notre Dame
  • Pro-Democracy Protests in Thailand
  • History of Protests in San Francisco

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SarahK November 12, 2023 - 8:58 pm

it’s interesting how these events always bring out so many different issues, like corporate greed and environmental stuff.

LizGreen November 12, 2023 - 9:58 pm

I wonder how much of an impact these protests will actually have on the summit’s decisions, seems like they’re pretty locked down in there.

TommyLee November 13, 2023 - 3:03 am

surprised to see SF hosting this, thought they’d be more wary of such events after what happened in seattle back in 99.

MikeJohnson November 13, 2023 - 4:13 am

wow, didn’t know that APEC was such a big deal, these protests sound massive!

AnnaB November 13, 2023 - 3:41 pm

the part about China’s tight security is so different from what’s happening in SF, shows the contrast in how different countries handle protests.

GarySmith November 13, 2023 - 6:27 pm

Always impressed by how organized grassroots groups can be, over 100 groups coming together is no small feat!


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