Thousands demonstrated in downtown San Francisco Sunday, calling for worker rights, an end to free-trade capitalism, an end to Israel's attacks in Gaza, an end to human rights abuses in China and the Philippines, and many other things, with a march that attempted to get close to the Moscone Center.
The rally and march Sunday, dubbed 'Shut Down APEC,' began at Harry Bridges Plaza at the foot of Market Street. And similar to other protests that have occurred in recent weeks, Palestinian flags and keffiyehs were in abundant supply among demonstrators.
While "Free Palestine" and "Stop Killing Children!" were frequently heard chants, protesters from a wide range of groups joined in the demonstration, trying to call attention to a host of international issues — in a sort of preamble to what will likely be more protests in the days to come.
SFPD Chief Bill Scott told KPIX that he expects to see multiple protests per day this week, but some may not materialize or grow in size like Sunday's.
"People are welcome to exercise their constitutional rights in San Francisco, but we will not tolerate people committing acts of violence, or property destruction or any other crime," Scott tells the station. "We will make arrests when necessary."
After moving up Market Street Sunday afternoon, the marchers attempted to come east down Howard Street around 4:30 p.m., toward the Moscone Center — which was heavily barricaded by the SFPD in anticipation of the protest. But, as SFist observed, the march stalled and at Fifth and Howard streets as it faced a phalanx of SFPD officers in riot gear.
The march blocked the intersection for a period of time.
The SFPD subsequently directed cars on the block of Howard between Fourth and Fifth streets to turn around and head out of the area, south on Fourth.
Thousands yelling Free Palestine as they pass the SF Wrongicle building pic.twitter.com/X407J8m03X— Trash Night Heron (@hyphy_republic) November 13, 2023
As the Chronicle reports, one protester was hit by a water bottle apparently thrown by a frustrated motorist as the march moved toward Moscone.
By the time the sun was setting at 5 p.m., the riot police had dispersed and protesters were dispersing as well.
Left behind after the march along Market Street, as seen below, was graffiti about the war in Gaza.
Graffiti left behind after today’s protest on down Market in San Francisco. Demonstrators started their day with a noon rally at the Embarcadero Plaza listening to speeches. They marched to Moscone Center later in the afternoon @KPIXtv #apec #APEC2023 pic.twitter.com/LOzxmFNJCg— Betty Yu (@bett_yu) November 13, 2023
As one of the organizers of Sunday's protest, Narissa Lee of the No to APEC Coalition, tells the Chronicle of their aims, "The U.S. is attempting to push free trade policies in the Asia Pacific Rim. And we see a history of those policies being detrimental to workers’ rights and the environment."
Nancy Hollander, 84, an Oakland-based member of the group 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations, tells Bay Area News Group, "All of these issues, and all of these organizations, represent different aspects of oppression, and the kinds of exploitative conditions that are imposed on all of us by these large corporations. he bad distribution of wealth and resources and opportunities, and the potential for a decent life, is so askew at this point that it brings all of these issues together."
"APEC is the epitome of all that is wicked and corrupt in our society today," said Simon Ma, a family doctor and member of the progressive Korean-American organization Nodutdol, in a statement. He describes APEC as a "cabal of billionaires and politicians scheming behind closed doors, trying to come up with new and innovative ways to further exploit the working class of our planet."
Portland-based coordinator for the International Women’s Alliance Katie Comfort spoke at Sunday's rally, per Bay Area News Group, telling demonstrators that at an earlier APEC event in Seattle, protesters "got inside and disrupted them in their lunch break," and Comfort said, "We’re going to do it again."
KPIX got a quote from a sociology professor, Rory McVeigh, who is also the director of the Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame, about the general effectiveness of such protests. "Probably a lot of protests just don't make much difference, but occasionally they do, and occasionally they can make a huge difference," McVeigh said.
Meetings among world leaders are ongoing at the summit this week, with President Biden expected to meet Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been holding talks with Chinese officials in SF since last week, and gave some remarks following her meetings with Vice Premier He Lifeng.
"Over the past two days, Vice Premier He and I have built on this foundation with candid, direct, and productive engagements," Yellen said. "There is no substitute for in-person diplomacy."