© Reuters. Protesters taunt people in costumes, during a rally in opposition to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
By Max A. Cherney, Matt McKnight and Carlos Barria
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A protester draped in a Free Tibet flag climbed a flagpole outside the hotel where Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to meet U.S. CEOs on Wednesday evening, capping a day of demonstrations against and for the Chinese. chief.
Protesters against the war between Israel and Hamas, critics of the global response to climate change and other causes all descended on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in San Francisco, where leaders and CEOs from all over the world have proposed tempting targets.
The day began with a few hundred protesters blocking San Francisco streets and convention center entrances for meetings.
But protesters’ attention shifted more toward anti- and pro-China during the day.
Hundreds of Xi critics marched through the city center around noon, a major demonstration against the leader. They moved through the city center chanting “Free Tibet” and “Liberate Hong Kong.”
Led by a police escort, the peaceful group — which spanned several blocks — blocked one of downtown’s main thoroughfares as they moved in a slow circle around the perimeter of the convention center.
“We can say beyond reasonable doubt that this will be the largest anti-Xi demonstration at bilateral talks held here in the United States in the history of Xi Jinping as dictator of China” , said Pema Doma, executive director of the Students for association. a free Tibet, declared early in the day.
Still, local television showed crowds welcoming Xi, waving huge Chinese and American flags, as well as posters of the two flags together, along a highway south of San Francisco where the presidents met. Some protesters also lined up on this road.
And in the evening, before Xi met with U.S. CEOs, supporters and protesters were initially both lined up in the street. This is where the mast climber carried the message of Free Tibet up the mast.
By mid-evening, a few hundred pro-Chinese supporters dominated the neighborhood, singing and waving flags.
Protesters for non-Chinese causes have been active since at least Sunday, with some crowds stretching for blocks. The group formed a human chain early Wednesday that blocked some conference attendees from crossing the intersection.
“I’m actually quite impressed that there are so few people here and they’ve messed up the work a bit,” said Gary Hughes of the advocacy group Biofuelwatch.
Protesters held signs reading “War Criminals Out of SF” and “From Palestine to the Philippines, Stop the American War Machine.”
Police donned protective helmets, but there were no major clashes.
San Francisco cleared downtown streets for the meeting and prepared for a potential confrontation with protesters: 8-foot-tall wire mesh barriers were erected to keep people on sidewalks from getting in the way nearby vehicle traffic. the convention center.
The risk of disruptions around the summit site, parts of which were closed to vehicles and pedestrian traffic, led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to designate the meeting as a special national security event, tasking the U.S. Secret Service with responsibility for coordinating police agencies.