Many of the demonstrators are probably descendants of the Chinese immigrants, who came to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, which started in 1849. After the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill thousands of laborers came from China to work in the gold mines. At the beginning everyone was happy, but soon white laborers felt threatened by the hard working and cheaper Chinese. As a result of the protests and demonstrations, the Chinese had to leave the gold mines and settled in the area of San Francisco, which is now known as Chinatown where about 70,000 (about half of the total Chinese-American population) is still residing. In the early days, the area was known for the opium dens and exotic women.
Over the years that followed, many laws were passed in San Francisco restricting Chinese immigration, which eventually led to the United States Federal Law, “The Chinese Exclusion Act” of 1882, the most significant restriction of free immigration in U.S. history. Only in 1943, the Chinese immigrants residing in the U.S. were given permission to become U.S. Citizens.
Chinese-Americans live all over San Francisco, but many still live in Chinatown in small apartments, without living rooms. For many of them Portsmouth Square has become a meeting place where members of the local community can get together to play cards or other games or just to relax.
The Chinese New Year’s Parade began here in 1860, and this year, it had more than 20 floats with 2,500 marches and an estimated 750,000 guests, who came from all over the world. No wonder why some families started waiting for the parade to start, along Post Street as early as 2pm. You can read more about it in the San Francisco Chronicle article, “Crowd Has Barrel of Fun at Chinese New Year Parade”. As part of the celebration, Grant Street was closed with vendors set up along the narrow street and a huge crowd trying to push through it. It seemed that many visitors as well as locals had a lot of fun, and enjoyed the great weather.