President Obama comes to San Francisco Jazz Center, Climate Activists sing him a song

Written by Sven Eberlein

President Obama came to San Francisco today for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the SFJazz Center – and a couple hundred of climate activists welcomed him in their own creative way, by singing him sweet songs.


Even though we didn’t get to see him outside his limo, he seemed to have noticed as several hundred of us tried to get his attention. At his fundraiser, he commented on the serenade he received.

I always have fun in San Francisco. (Applause.) There’s always something going on. Even in the ropeline — (laughter) — I had some folks sing to me; had a guy who took a photo with me with the shoes with the little toes in them. (Laughter.) I am sure that’s the first time that’s ever happened to a President. (Laughter.) And they looked very comfortable. But that doesn’t happen in Chicago. (Laughter.) There have been at least five protests that I don’t know what they’re protesting, but they’re yelling something. (Laughter.) That’s sort of par for the course in San Francisco. I knew it was something.

Well, what we were singing was “Barack Obama, Barack Obama, stop Keystone right now” to Steams’ “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye).”

It was all in all a very lighthearted affair, nobody hates the President and he has every right to poke fun at a bunch of protesters, seeing that he’s probably the most protested man on Earth. And how could you possibly not smile when presented with this sight….


But of course, underlying all the silliness we all know that we are dealing with some serious serious trouble when it comes to climate change, and I can’t help but think the President is aware of it. At least he’s said as much in the past, and we were just out there reminding him about what’s truly important as he was shmoozing it up with the Very Important People in San Francisco.


So, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Credo Action, 350 Bay Area, OccupySF, and a bunch of others had organized this rally to disrupt “business as usual” and send an undeniable message to the president: STOP THE MADNESS: No tar sands! No Keystone XL! Climate Action NOW.


Because you know, as much as the rich and powerful like to laugh at those of us whose only way to exert any kind of influence is to go out into the streets and hold silly signs and sing silly songs, they tend to forget that we’re ultimately all on this little round ball together.


My feeling is that President Obama ultimately gets that climate change is not a joke and that building the Keystone pipeline would seem like an insane thing to do for anyone serious about weening ourselves off fossil fuels. However, he probably has a lot of Very Important People whispering in his ear all the time, telling him that he can’t just take away our god-given right to consume more and more oil. So that’s why we were out there, gently reminding him about what’s up.


Just in case he didn’t hear us sing, I’d like to share a few more impressions of how the day unfolded for those of us on the outside.

I met up with my Daily Kos blogger friends Kim, Glen and Glen’s 10-year old daughter “The Little One” around 11am. I have to say, The Little One’s sign with the question to PBO about what Sasha and Malia think of Keystone is still one of the most poignant ones I’ve seen. I would really love to some day see her ask him that question in person, but for today, The Little One stood in the same spot for about 2 hours, at the very front of the barricades, waiting for the President to drive by and see her sign.


When I got there, a bunch of people were already gathered on the sidewalk right across from the Jazz Center…


looking at the long queue of fundraiser guests across the street.


There were quite a few cops, but it was a really friendly affair.


The cops then started to chaperone us behind the barricades, promising that we’d get to make our voices heard to PBO.


Some people who’d been to an event in Palo Alto earlier this year where the President was shuffled in through the backdoor weren’t completely convinced, but hey, we were going to be fired up either way.


And yes, that is a bunch of people holding an anti-KXL roof rally atop an apartment complex, hosted by a woman living right on the corner of Franklin & Fell Streets.


It was just a great party, waiting for the president and watching as some of the local VIPs like Mayor Ed Lee and AG Kamala Harris were entering the building.


All the while, we were singing and chanting things like this…

What do we say to the President?
No pipeline for the 1 percent!

or this one

President Obama Yes We Can
stop this dirty pipeline plan!

At one point, there was a really fun flash mob doing a dance for the funders to a tune that was blasting from a boombox in a stroller.


The cops weren’t too amused, but I swear I saw a couple of them smile at one point.


Then Keystone itself made a grand entry!


when all of a sudden the motorcycle cops went crazy, which seemed like a sign that PBO was about to arrive.


And he did, or at least we thought he did, as a black SUV with an American flag pulled up from an alley and parked right next to the entrance about 300 feet away, followed by a bomb squad car a minute later.


We just all started chanting “Stop the pipeline, stop the madness” and then went into the aforementioned song that the President mentioned at the fundraiser. So it’s a pretty good bet that was him since he heard us.

It’s always a bit anti-climactic when you’re not sure whether the person whose attention you’re trying to get was there at the time you thought he was, or if he was even there at all. But perhaps more important in situations like these is how many people came out and the fun and bonding we experienced with each other.

As I wrote on my Facebook wall last night:

Wouldn’t it be cool if President Obama could get a BatKid-type reception when he comes to San Francisco tomorrow? If we could get 12,000 people to come out to celebrate him as a courageous climate hero I bet he couldn’t help but take some action on the most important issue facing humanity.

Well, we didn’t get 12,000, but we got enough spirited and caring souls to come out on a Monday morning to get the President’s attention on a topic of existential importance.

And just in case he doesn’t know exactly who all those people out there were and what they were singing about, I think the message this woman held up, sums it up quite nicely…


Be good to each other and to Mama Earth!


crossposted at Daily Kos

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Sven Eberlein

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    • This pope really seems to get it, and I love how he’s coming out so directly against the injustices of capitalism.

      Yes, powering down is ultimately really what we’ll have to do, but it goes against the very tenets of capitalism, permanent growth. So that’s why it’s important to try to show people how their lives might actually be better by consuming less and using less energy.

      • Yes. Agree. As much as I like talking about and fantasizing about getting shot back a few hundred years to a rural slow-paced setting, I’m not ready to depower. I wrote the above comment and promptly drove 40 minutes in my internal combustion engine-powered car. But when the shift does come, I think I would be more ready precisely because a low energy lifestyle is already in my consciousness as a possible alternative. It won’t be too off-putting. That’s the hope anyway! And the hope is to also influence enough of my friends to get ready to embrace such a lifestyle. Because if I’m not going to be driving and if others won’t be either, I would need to have my friends living closer to me 🙂