Why San Franciscans Weren’t Invited to APEC’s Party

by Javier Bremond

Living in San Francisco, it’s fairly obvious that the ruling class has an unfair influence on our daily lives. But for an entire week last month, the City sent a message to its constituents: “We’re throwing a big party, and you’re not invited.” Apparently, the closest comparison in terms of scale and importance is the establishment of the United Nations, which took place here in 1945. We had to put our “best foot forward,” as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said, so that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, or APEC, could be “epic.” To do this, the City closed down a 12-square block section to protect the attendees of the event from the sight of homeless people or anyone else they deem undesirable. The idea is if tourists and out-of-towners see other people living in tents, they’ll be less inclined to return for a vacation or large event.  

However, the irony of APEC’s week-long occupation lies in its purpose. It was a meeting of cartoonishly evil CEOs and heads of state so that they could hatch plans for more efficient ways to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.  

If you walked down the streets around the zone that was fashioned for that rancid affair, you would not see people in tents because they were pushed away. This is because the police and sheriff’s departments, Homeland Security and Secret Service made sure people knew they needed to get out of sight until more important people left. 

We weren’t invited to their party because this conference was nothing more than a platform celebrating a cozy agreement between the world’s worst criminals to commit more sophisticated economic violence. It was a strategic marketing meeting, conducted as casually as a tech startup brainstorming about slogans for handbags. But the workshops they held for “Innovation, Competition Policy and Finance” should have been named “Sweatshops, Lower Wages and Home Foreclosures.”

The corporate and authoritarian elites that we hosted for APEC are attempting to hide that they’re directly responsible for creating and maintaining this broken economic system because it’s not broken for them. They use doublespeak and flowery language to talk about land extraction and raising medical costs, because they think we won’t see through their nonsense.  

We said “NO!” Thousands poured into the streets to tell the world to recognize the harm these bad actors are causing, and tell our city to get them the hell out of here. 

So locally, we are experiencing law enforcement’s paranoia of insisting that poor people cannot be around the rich, or else they might be a disturbance. Ultimately, APEC’s goal was managing corporations’ and nations’ fears of people standing in solidarity and demanding fair wages and a right to live.  It was a desperate attempt by the fattest cats to reassure themselves that more capitalism is the way and imagine having the right to manipulate the economy.  

But corporate tax protection is not a human right. Stable housing, health care, food security, freedom of movement—these are the human rights that are understood across the globe. It’s why the U.N. was founded in San Francisco. Instead of fantasizing about the unending “growth” of the economy, we should invest in people over profit because that would be epic.