By Nigel Whan, AsAmNews Intern
On Sunday, thousands of protestors marched through downtown San Francisco, pushing to end the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit ongoing in the city.
At the protest, organizers condemned the conference’s claims of promoting peaceful economic prosperity and environmental protection as a facade over international cooperation to exploit the environment, people of color, the poor, women and others.
The march was organized by the No 2 APEC coalition, a broad alliance of groups united in their opposition to the international trade and governmental forum being held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center from November 11th till the 17th. Gathering in the Harry Bridges Plaza, across the Embarcadero from the Ferry building, the march continued down Market Street towards the Moscone Center, APEC’s main venue.
APEC brings together officials, bureaucrats, businesspeople and others from twenty-one member economies in the Pacific Rim region, including the largest economies in the region: the US, China, Russia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Mexico and others.
At the protest, organizers promoted a counter-summit, the “People and Planet Over Profit and Plunder” summit, held this past weekend. During the march, finance ministers at APEC had a gala dinner.
APEC 2023 is estimated to draw somewhere between 20-30,000 attendees to San Francisco, including some very big names—Joe Biden and Xi Jinping among them. The international summit could have significant impacts on Asian Americans, with anti-Asian hate being so often tied to international tensions.
Speakers at the march accused the negotiations at APEC of only ostentatiously being focused on trade, saying the meetings often turn to backroom discussions on military cooperation and competition. Organizers also accused the conference of hosting arms companies and helping facilitate their business.
Seeing the conversations happening in the Moscone Center as examples of the economic basis for imperialism across the globe, the protest centered international causes, including opposition to Israel’s attacks on Gaza, Bongbong Marcos renewing his family’s rule in the Philippines, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s pressure on organized labor.
As one speaker from the Palestinian Youth Movement put it, “They call it free trade, but in reality we know it is forced migration.” Asian American organizers are playing a large role in the ‘No 2 APEC’ coalition, with groups such as the the Filipino youth movement Anakbayan USA and the Chinese Progressive Association represented in the march.
Two Filipino American protestors told us they were primarily drawn there to oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza, but generally, “We’re against APEC because we’re against capitalism and imperialism.”
“It’s so important because as a Filipino American I want to bring my voice to raise awareness of whats happening in the Philippines, like the dictatorship back in the day and still now, and the corruption. For them to have this conference as a hidden way to impose imperialism is just… we need more people to realize what’s happening behind doors,” shared one of the pair.
She told us how having a hometown and being born in the same region of the Philippines as the Marcos family gave her her understanding of oppression, as important as studying Filipino history.
Like the rest of the march, they emphasized how connected the issues faced by dispossessed people around the world. “If the US is able to give $14 billion dollars to Israel to kill innocent peoples’ lives and they’re not even able to use that money to help, for example, people in Maui who are affect by the fires. Each of them got $700, they lost their homes, their jobs, their family members, and got $700, but somehow our US government is able to give $14 billion to Israel. I feel like that speaks a lot,” said the other Filipino American protestor.
The protest march down Market Street was escorted by the San Francisco Police Department, who protest organizers accused of holding up the march by temporarily blocking the work truck carrying their sound system with police motorcycles.
As the march approached the Moscone Center, we asked one of the lanyard-wearing APEC attendees what they thought of the protest. A businessman visiting from Peru for the summit, he said “Everyone has a right to express,” but disagreed with the protestor’s criticisms.
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