When President Obama visits San Francisco — often considered to be among the “bluest” of American cities, politically speaking – it is expected that he will get a warm reception from Democratic patrons and the party faithful.
It’s also predictable that he’ll get a chilly reception from his critics, and there will be plenty of them.
On Wednesday, when he attended a fundraiser for congressional Democrats, several hundred protesters showed up with a laundry list of complaints. Among them was Obama’s acceptance of using lethal drones, his broken campaign promise to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and his failure so far to completely reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
His first stop in the City was a reception at the home of hedge fund billionaire Thomas F. Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, where guests paid between $5,000 and $32,400 each to hang out with him. Then he popped over to the home of Ann and Gordon Getty, who invited 75 people to join them, each donating the legal maximum of $32,400, according to the New York Times.
Surrounding the Getty’s home in Pacific Heights, but kept back to a perimeter of several blocks by San Francisco police, protesters chanted:
“What do we say to the president? No pipeline for the one percent! Obama you know what to do! Stop the pipeline, it’s up to you!”
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would move oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, down to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The US State Department claims the pipeline expansion should have no significant effect on the environment and should pose no major risks, but did not say whether or not it should be approved.
Sarah Lane, a spokesperson for the environmental group CREDO believes if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved it’s “game over for the climate.” She told SFBay:
“It’s just going to accelerate the climate crisis. It’s not going to reduce gas prices domestically. The oil is going to be exported overseas, so the only oil that Americans will see from the Keystone XL pipeline is if it spills.”
Supporters of the pipeline say that regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built, future demand will ensure that oil from the tar sands will be used by someone, somewhere.
A report by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute estimates the pipeline could create up to 4,650 temporary construction jobs for about two years, but permanent jobs could end up being as few as 50.
But the pipeline was only one of several issues that protesters were concerned about.
Stephanie Tang of the anti-war group The World Can’t Wait was there to protest the president’s support of drone strikes. Tang told SFBay:
“The war crimes so many people hated under George Bush still continue under Obama. The drones, torture in Guantanamo, the presidential kill lists, we can’t tolerate any of these crimes. We can’t tolerate the lie that all these crimes keep American lives safe. American lives are not worth more than other people and it’s our responsibility to stop the crimes of our government.”
A report by Stanford University and NYU gives figures originally published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization based at City University in London.
The report states that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicates that drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan. Of those, somewhere between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children.
Rob Darakjian came up from Los Angeles to hold the Stars & Stripes upside down in San Francisco. He told SFBay:
“As long as our president continues to assert that he has the right to a secret kill list, I’ll hold the flag upside down because I believe it is a betrayal of the American ideal. I’d like to return the flag to its right position but until I see a change in the policy, I’m going to continue to hold it as it is.”
At both events, Obama addressed the issues surrounding gun control legislation, education reform, immigration reform and the progress made for LGBT rights.