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San Francisco Braces for Olympic Torch Protests

BY Admin  April 9, 2008 at 2:45 PM EST

San Francisco police watch Tibetan monks; AP photo

The torch’s 85,000-mile global trip is the longest in
Olympic history, and it is meant to shine a spotlight on host country China’s
rise in economic and political power. Activists, however, have seized upon the
torch procession as a backdrop for protests against China
– and particularly its rule of Tibet
— angering Beijing.

As runners carry the torch on its six-mile route through San
Francisco, they will compete not only with demonstrations over China’s rule of
Tibet, its human rights record toward Falun Gong practitioners and its support
for the governments of Myanmar and Sudan, but also with more unusual activists.
They include nudists calling for a return to the way the ancient Greek games
were played, according to The Associated Press.

Some 700 security officers were deployed in San Francisco and the
Federal Aviation Administration imposed airspace restrictions. Barricades were
erected outside the city’s Chinese consulate.

One torchbearer, Jaclyn Kimball, a 14-year-old cross-country
runner, bowed out because of concern about the run, the San Francisco Chronicle
reported.

The president of the International Olympic Committee told
the Wall Street Journal that he condemned the worldwide protests and said they
won’t derail or cancel the torch relay outside China.

“I am saddened that such a beautiful symbol of the
torch, which unites people of different religions, different ethnic origin,
different political systems, cultures and languages, has been attacked,”
Rogge said of the protests.

“Politics invited itself in sports,” he added.
“We didn’t call for politics to come.”

Hours before the torch relay in San
Francisco, President Bush urged China
to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama over the recent disruptions in Tibet.

He said he agreed at a meeting with Singapore Senior
Minister Goh Chok Tong “that it would stand the Chinese government in good
stead if they would begin a dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai
Lama,” Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Congress was considering a resolution urging the
president to boycott the opening ceremonies.

China
sharply denounced comments by speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy
Pelosi, D-Calif., in support of anticipated protests.

“We advise those very few in the U.S. Congress (who are
doing so) to immediately stop interfering with and bringing harm to the
Olympics and the torch relay,” spokeswoman Jiang Yu wrote in a statement
on the Chinese Foreign Ministry Web site.

Some 2,000 exiled Tibetans from across the United States began descending on
the Bay Area Monday to protest the torch relay, the San Jose Mercury News
reported.

Tenzin Tethong, 59, of Sunnyvale,
Calif. was one of many people
hosting fellow exiles.

“Tibetans feel the wrong that’s happening should be
corrected,” Tethong told the Mercury News, adding, “The exile
community is just responding in a powerful way — very emotionally and
passionately.”

David Perry, a spokesman for the city’s Olympic torch
preparations, told the Chronicle that officials in the city, which has a long
history of hosting protests about a wide range of causes, want to respect the
free speech rights of both protesters and Olympic relay supporters in order to carry
out a successful torch run.

“I like to think in San Francisco we know how to do a
protest,” he said. “Here in San
Francisco, we’re not the type to jump on people in a
wheelchair to try to snuff out the flame.”