Flyer for "Shut Down APEC" mobilization, meeting at Harry Bridges Plaza, San Francisco, on November 12, 2023 at 12 noon.  The flyer reads: 
"Save the Date. Shut down APEC. No to APEC, People over Profit, Planet over Plunder. November 12, noon, Harry Bridges Plaza"
Image courtesy of Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).

This year, San Francisco will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the Moscone Center. The summit is a convening of 21 heads of states, primarily from the Indo-Pacific region, where they will discuss economic foreign policies. With these policies come agreements that will only benefit the politically elite and the wealthy, such as the privatization of industries or the establishment of agreements binding one country’s resources to the interest of another.

With the APEC summit set for November 11–17, the city’s attempt to push a positive public perception of the event has been challenged by the growing opposition to APEC.

Though the summit discusses a variety of economic policies, it is not the marginalized and oppressed who gain any advantage from them. This negative impact has been particularly highlighted by the national NO2APEC coalition of over a hundred organizations nationwide, representing a variety of people from labor, youth and students, and housing groups. Protests, teach-ins, and community forums have also taken place.

The city has emphasized that this is the biggest event of this magnitude since 1945 when San Francisco hosted the establishment of the United Nations. A whopping $20 million fundraising goal to host the event was announced earlier in the spring which has since been achieved through donations in the millions by corporations like Graton Casino and Doordash, and other grandiose fundraising efforts held by the mayor such as the launch held at the Asian Art Museum. Because of the “national security” designation of the event, Secret Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and other police personnel will all be present during APEC. An “all hands on deck” order for the San Francisco Police Department will also be implemented where additional expenses may be expended through utilizing the $10 million public funds reserve.

In tandem with APEC preparations, the city has been ramping up their attacks on homeless advocacy organizations. By exploiting the recent court clarification on who is “involuntarily homeless,” the city has increased sweeps. This aligns with the APEC timeline to make San Francisco attractive and appealing to the thousands of visitors. These heightened sweeps continue despite San Francisco not having a systematic form of outreach to the unhoused to offer housing, and the compounded aspect of most shelters being inaccessible, at capacity, or simply not a shelter with basic accommodations like a bed.

Individuals across San Francisco have also expressed criticism and concern against APEC. During the October 24 Board of Supervisors hearing, over 50 community members uplifted concerns over the exclusion zone that will secure the event. Seniors and residents of the SoMa commented on the negative impact on their day-to-day life such as the re-routing of public transportation, accessibility to get groceries, and the ability for caregivers to reach them. The hearing resulted in the unanimous passing of a resolution that asserted the $10 million reserve of public funds be used for the concerns of the public. Though non-binding, the passing of the resolution is symbolic of the growing opposition to APEC.

The slogan “APEC Will Be Epic” can be seen on several signs across San Francisco, but as one reads this message one can’t help but question: “epic” for whom? The movement against APEC continues to broaden and strengthen each day by linking and raising the local issues to the international impact of APEC. It is clear that the people of San Francisco—the ones who make this city—will continue to push back against initiatives that only benefit the rich and powerful. APEC is not for the people of the Asia Pacific. APEC is not for the people of San Francisco.

Two events to oppose APEC will take place the weekend of November 11–12. The People’s Counter Summit at San Francisco State University will host hundreds of individuals from across the nation where people will more deeply understand the impacts of APEC. The day after, a mass mobilization with an expected attendance of 1,000 will begin at Embarcadero Plaza. The mobilization will then march down Market Street with the program concluding near Moscone Center where APEC is hosted.

Wherever APEC will be, the people will come out in full force!

This story was originally published by the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).

Joemae Santos is the member organizer at the Western Regional Advocacy Project.