Wednesday, April 9, 2008

San Franciscans throw cold water on China's Olympic torch run

Whew! I've been on my feet all day and most of yesterday, too. Yesterday hundreds of people calling for a free Tibet gathered at UN plaza in the morning -- after a long rally, we marched to City Hall (mayor Gavin Newsome came out to look at us from his balcony) and then to the Chinese consulate and back again. There was a candlelight vigil later that night with even *more* people, because Bishop Desmond Tutu and Richard Gere were scheduled to speak. Bishop Tutu was so awesome -- the man bubbles over with love and joy.

But the most amazing events were yet to come -- the Olympic torch protest was absolutely *huge.* Of course it would be, because not only were the Tibetan supporters, Burma supporters, Darfur supporters and basic human rights supporters there, there's a sizable Chinese American population in San Francisco and for some reason there were a lot of people waving Chinese flags in support of China. I don't know why people who left China would want to support the Chinese government who would arrest anybody at the slightest hint of free speech, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention there were a lot of Chinese flags as well.

At any rate, there was no way the torch run could have proceeded as planned. There were way too many protesters -- and very committed, serious protesters at that. It's been a long time since I've seen dedication like that from all but the most committed peace activists. One guy kept leading chants like "Shame on China!" "China lies, people die!" for literally hours. These people were not the types to put in their two hours and then go home. I was very heartened to see that kind of commitment to a cause. This was not an abstract idea for them -- their spiritual leaders are being killed and tortured right now. To be so dedicated and yet committed to peaceful non-violence ... why can't America's peace movement be more like them?

Yet there were so many others just like them, from the Burmese, people from Eastern Turkmenistan (a situation like that of Tibet), the Vietnamese, those protesting China's hand in the genocide of Darfur ... what a privilege to be with these people. BTW, it was absolutely gorgeous outside.

In a surprise move, an official Olympic torch bearer (I didn't get her name, she was a young African-American woman) pulled out a Tibetan flag. She later came over and spoke to the Free Tibet contingent of protesters, who of course lionized her as they did the 3 young people who scaled the Golden Gate bridge to drop a "Free Tibet" banner a couple days ago.

I'm running out of Internet time, but I'll update this post and add more pictures later.

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