Thousands rally against world leaders ahead of APEC summit in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO – Thousands of protesters converged and held a rally on Nov. 12 at the Harry Bridges Plaza on the Embarcadero in San Francisco to oppose the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting as heads of state, diplomats and corporate leaders arrived to attend the annual event.
“No to APEC” activists were joined by other rallyists calling for a ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas forces. Rally speakers took turns criticizing the APEC meeting and the continuing hostilities in Gaza.
“From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the US war machine,” chanted the rallyists representing over 100 grassroots organizations from around the US.
“This is a gathering of organizations from different movements from numerous countries apart from the Philippines, like Myanmar, Palestine and South Korea, among others,” said Malaya Movement USA National Vice Chair Audine Tayag, who came all the way from Southern California. “This is a strong collective effort from these different countries.”
Filipino organizations participating in the rally included Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA), Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, BAYAN and League of Filipino Students (LFS) at San Francisco State University, he said.
Tayag said the Malaya movement is opposed to APEC because it facilitates trade agreements that only benefit foreign corporations and foreign countries like the US, leaving countries like the Philippines with the short end of the stick.
“We are here to say no more of that, no more of this race to the bottom resulting in having low-paid Filipino (workers), who are mistreated in terms of overall labor management,” he added.
Tayag said free trade agreements have historically been “extremely harmful” to the Philippines, resulting in policies that “open up the Philippines by slashing protections for workers and the environment.”
“We are here to say that the Filipino people are not for that anymore. We have to stand up for dignified work, dignified living,” he added.
“No to APEC” Coalition spokesperson and convenor Rhonda Ramiro echoed Tayag’s claim that 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.”
“We organized this counter-summit and mass mobilizations to expose APEC’s false solutions and build a movement to address the very real crises of climate change, economic crisis and militarization,” Ramiro said.
Brandon Lee of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines said APEC is “simply a tool of big business and the ruling elite” to increase their profits at the expense of people and the planet.
“Contrary to the city’s branding, APEC will not be epic. It will be a waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and it will only result in worker exploitation and environmental destruction,” he added.
The protesters also voiced their opposition to the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a massive new free trade agreement that would set the rules for 40 percent of the world’s economy.
The IPEF proposed for this year’s summit is projected to negatively impact millions of American workers as a result of increased outsourcing and workforce downsizing. It will also adversely affect millions abroad through cuts to social programs, corporate land grabs and loosening of labor protections.
Keyser Garganera, a fast-food worker, came with co-workers all the way from New Jersey to join the anti-APEC rally.
“We came to lend our support to the cause of the rally to stop abuses and harassment that workers suffer from employers, like we have, who treats employees working 40 hours a week as part-timers,” Garganera said.
Gisele delos Reyes of the Los Angeles-based Filipino Migrant Center joined the San Francisco rally to protest the displacement and exploitation of migrants with no resources from the state.
“At the APEC summit, we know that the heads of states and the CEOs will make decisions on where the funds will go within the United States and these funds usually do not grant benefits, like access to healthcare, for the migrants,” de los Reyes said.
“APEC has been there for decades now, and if they really want to make decisions for the world, they should invite the people in the majority instead of CEOs so that the people who are actually exploited by their policies may be represented and heard.”
After holding the Embarcadero rally and listening to speeches, the protesters marched from Market Street in downtown San Francisco to an intersection near Moscone Center, where the world leaders will meet.