Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Torch


Did everyone hear about the Olympic torch coming to San Francisco, yesterday? This was the only American stop for the torch, and after the protests in London and Paris many people were wondering how the city of San Francisco was going to handle things.

Not surprisingly, considering the area's diverse population and penchant for political activism, there were protests. And counter-protests. On Monday, three protesters climbed the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, and unfurled gigantic signs, supporting the Tibetan freedom movement. You cannot imagine how insane, dangerous and impressive this gesture was. Given the heights and the winds, this could have easily been a fatal effort.

Yesterday, the city was full of protesters and onlookers, and (no doubt) bemused police officers. Having been active in the protests leading up the invasion of Iraq, I can say that the local police are remarkably laid back when it comes to protests. They give the impression that their goal really is protecting the public safety, and not "cracking heads."

As I understand it, the torch run started as planned, and then the runner ducked into one of the waterfront warehouses, and after a brief pause, the torch and runners were bused to another part of the city, so they could run an abbreviated relay in relative calm.

I'm sure that some will feel that this was a cheat. It must have been very disappointing to come to San Francisco hoping to see the torch relay, and miss out. But after the protests elsewhere, people must have been expecting some kind of upset.

I think it was pure genius on the part of the city. It respected both the torch runners and the protesters, and minimized conflict.


RedinSF said...

Hi Lisa,

Great post. I completely agree. The torch itself and the runners are not about China. The torch represents the world community getting together to celebrate athletic prowess. That said, the demonstrators got news coverage - their voice was seen and heard. Their message was not at all diminished (at least for me) by the point that the torch route changed.

Another way protesters and those of use who disapprove of China's human rights and political policies is to demonstrate that disapproval (rather than trying to grab the torch and putting innocent people in danger and creating a raucous) by taking a look at the labels on their clothing and textiles, electronics, furniture, and even the labels on their food (!) and be cognizant about where their dollars are going and what their dollars might be supporting.
-red in SF

Princess Lea said...

I am glad that the torch was able to be carried undisturbed, but that peaceful protests were also able to take place. I wish that the Olympics did not get so politicized though - it seems the antithesis of the spirit of the games!

On a related note, I got to hold one of the torches last night! My patient's sister had been one of the torchbearer's and she brought it to him to see.

Anonymous said...

As it so happens I was on the GG Bridge late Monday morning trying to get back into the City to return my rental car and get to the airport.

The folks who climbed the bridge had apparently just done so. The pedestrian walkways had just been closed, but there were still several folks out on the span who couldn't get back to either side. Imagine their visit to SF memories!

Naturally there were cops and fire rescue folks and tons of media everywhere. Also, what seemed like ever single bridge worker who was on duty that morning were all gathered on the walked way on the ocean side standing around gawking and taking pictures! Seems they later had to climb the rigging to help with apprehension.

Sure am glad I wasn't 15 minutes later or I might still be sitting that massive traffic jam!


jane said...

I think it was a brilliant move, logistically, on the part of law enforcement and the olympic committee. The torch made it through the City without incident, everyone got to have their protests and all those who came out to see the events unfold got to see some kind of action, granted it might not have been the torch, but it was memorable.
As a prior law enforcement officer, and one who has worked many demonstrations both in San Francisco and Los Angeles, it is always the goal to just keep the peace and keep the "two sides" from fighting and distrupting the "normal daily flow" of life in the City.

shiloh said...

It's been my observation that not all protesters even care about what they are protesting. They just want their 15 seconds of fame. I'll leave it at that instead of going off on my usualy tirade. =8)

The Olympics are supposed to be about friendly competition and not be political. the idea,the way I understand it,is the games are supposed to be politically neutral.

Maybe the IOC should just do away with all the ceremony and just have the games. Just a thought.

Marcie said...

Over the past week I was mildly confused by the torch events. Not about the protesting, but the fact that it was in Paris last week and then it was here a few days ago. I thought I remembered reading as a child that the torch was supposed to be lit in Athens and then carried by runners to the Olympic site.

Obviously that's not true anymore, if it ever was, and that's too bad. I sort of feel like the torch is some kind of pop-culture celebrity now that'll turn up anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I disagree so much! I do feel the public was cheated- both those who wnated to see it (neutral, or supportive of China) and those who wanted to protest. Mayor promised to have the route be public, and I feel he planned all along to pull a scam like this. If the protests were so strong that the run could not be held, then theat is the will of the people. Surely mayor & Olympic Committee must have known tha tSF would have a huge Tibetan support movement! We should have refused the "honor" in the first place..or cancelled it..instead it looks like we didn't care, that we gave in to Mainland Chinese governemnt's publicity stunt. It would have been better to cancel the run than to have that sham run! The torch was actually *bussed* much farther than it was carried!
Suzi (of SuziLivvi fame)

Anonymous said...

Could they see my house from up there?



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