SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco has been in a glaring global spotlight this week, hosting billionaire CEOs of major corporations, Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Joe Biden, and more presidents for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
Protesters seized the rare opportunity by staging demonstrations on a wide range of global issues. Some of the protests were peaceful and legal. Thursday morning’s traffic-halting protest on the Bay Bridge was illegal, the California Highway Patrol told KRON4.
Here is a breakdown of what major protests this week were about:
Bay Bridge Protest – Ceasefire In Gaza
Hundreds of demonstrators shut down the Bay Bridge Thursday morning to demand that President Biden call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as well as end United States military aid to Israel.
Some protesters locked arms across all westbound lanes and unfurled a banner reading “Biden Harris: Ceasefire Now.” Other protesters staged a “die-in,” covering their bodies in white sheets and placards that read “11,000 dead.”
“We are beyond grief watching thousands of our loved ones murdered by the Israeli military. There is a genocide happening in Gaza, and President Biden is hosting cocktail parties in San Francisco right now,” said Aisha Nizar with the Palestinian Youth Movement.
“We refuse to stand by as our elected officials pay for and cheer on the genocide of Palestinians. Biden must call for a ceasefire now,” Nizar said.
The California Highway Patrol said protesters were able to halt traffic within seconds, threw their car keys into the bay, chained themselves to the bridge, and used a “sleeping dragon” tactic.
Gridlock ensued with a 5-mile backup. “This caused a ripple effect across the Bay Area,” said KRON4 traffic reporter Reyna Harvey.
A CHP officer said, “This is very dangerous. It’s illegal. It’s unacceptable for individuals to do this. They made for a very hectic day in the Bay Area. They put people’s lives at risk.”
Protesters scattered their abandoned cars along the bridge as additional barriers to drag out the bridge shutdown from 7:45 a.m. to just before noon. It took emergency officials four hours to reopen the Bay Bridge.
The CHP said Thursday’s protest did not qualify as peaceful and civil disobedience. “I would not call this a peaceful protest, when you stop tens of thousands of people,” a CHP officer said.
Around 80 protesters on the bridge were cited and released.
March From Chinese Consulate – Free Tibet
On Wednesday, the Bay Area’s Tibetan diaspora gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to decry Tibet’s plight and draw world leaders’ attention to “the suffering of the Tibetan people at the hands of the Communist Party of China,” organizers said. The group marched to the Moscone Center, where APEC events were underway.
“Decades of brutal invasion have resulted in the loss of 1.2 million Tibetan lives and the destruction of over 6000 monasteries,” organizers with the San Francisco Regional Tibetan Youth Congress wrote. Protesters said Xi Jinping should be held accountable for “extreme policies against Tibetans.”
Organizers wrote, “We are marching to challenge China’s repression in Tibet, demand justice and freedom for the Tibetan people, and most importantly, call for a strong public statement of concern for Tibet.”
Woodside And SF – Rallies For And Against Chinese President Xi Jinping
U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping emerged Wednesday from their first face-to-face meeting in a year, vowing to stabilize their fraught relationship and showcasing modest agreements to combat illegal fentanyl and re-establish military communications. Xi also signaled that China would send the U.S. new pandas. “Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed,” Xi told Biden.
Biden and Xi held their talks at Filoli Estate, a country house in Woodside. The event was carefully staged, Biden first to arrive at the grand estate. It was Biden and Xi’s first conversation of any kind since they met last November.
Demonstrations were kept at a distance in Woodside and San Francisco. A large crowd loudly condemning Xi marched from the Chinese Consulate toward the summit venue at the Moscone Center. Speakers implored the Biden administration to stand up to Xi and China’s human rights violations. Clashes broke out between dueling demonstrations. Pro-Xi activists waived large Chinese flags as the two world leaders passed by.
Moscone Center – Fossil Fuels And Corporate Greed
Climate activists rallied outside the Moscone Center Wednesday night, demanding that Citi and Exxon stop funding fossil fuels. Exxon’s CEO, Darren Woods, was one of the speakers at the APEC CEO Summit earlier that day.
Organizers with Climate Defenders wrote, “APEC is the perfect setting as it brings heads of states and thousands of CEOs from some of the most evil global corporations that are contributing to the climate crisis all for profit.”
Climate activists denounced climate change solutions discussed at APEC as “false solutions” and “greenwashing” motivated by corporate greed.
Companies like Exxon have no intention to follow any climate pledges they have made, and instead prioritize profit over the climate crisis, according to Climate Defenders.
Activists said the world needs real solutions such as divestment from climate change causing fossil fuels, and more sustainable, environmentally responsible practices.
Counter Summit – Anti-APEC
On Sunday, the “No to APEC” coalition marched from the Embarcadero to Moscone Center to protest the entire APEC summit. Organizers described APEC’s events as “highly secretive closed-door meetings costing the city of San Francisco millions.”
“APEC’s free trade agenda will harm millions of workers, women, and migrants in the US and across the Asia-Pacific, yet those who will be most impacted are not at the table,” said Rhonda Ramiro of the No to APEC Coalition.
The goal of the counter-summit was to call out “APEC’s false solutions and build a movement to address the very real crises of climate change, economic crisis, and militarization,” Ramiro said.
Around San Francisco – Even More Protests
With presidents of more than 20 nations in The City, there was a flurry of even more protests across the city this week. Photos of additional demonstrations are below:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.