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.