Tibetan activists—chanting “Reject China’s bloody torch,” “Olympics in China, torture in Tibet” and “We will never give up”—are gathering daily at midday at San Francisco’s Civic Center in what has essentially become a protest campaign to demand their right to protest. With the Olympic torch set to arrive in the city in less than two weeks, Mayor Gavin Newsom (while paying requisite lip service to the First Amendment) is considering shunting protesters away from the torch route to isolated “free speech zones”—which the Bay Guardian rightly calls “an oxymoron if there ever was one.”
Perversely, the route of the April 9 Olympic Torch Relay through the city is being treated as a closely-guarded secret—despite efforts by Tibetan activists, the ACLU and Supervisor Tom Ammiano to have it released to the public. (San Francisco Sentinel, March 25) China has even asked San Francisco, the only stop for Olympic torch in North America, to shorten the planned eight-mile route in a bid to discourage protesters. (Times of India, March 27)
A Board of Supervisors resolution sponsored by Supervisor Chris Daly (supported by Ammiano) calls on Mayor Newsom to provide access for human rights groups to protest anywhere along the route of the torch run. It also symbolically states that the city receives the torch “with alarm and protest at the failure of China…to cease the egregious and ongoing human rights abuses in China and occupied Tibet.” The resolution was passed March 27 by the board’s Rules Committee, after being rejected by the City Operations and Neighborhood Services committees. A rival resolution sponsored by Supervisor Carmen Chu would simply welcome the Olympic torch “in the true spirit of Olympism, consistent with the United Nations Charter established in this City, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” It would do nothing to safeguard the right to protest along the torch route. (Bay City News, March 27)
A Free Tibet rally is planned for April 5 in San Francisco’s Union Square, but it remains to be seen if protesters will have a visible presence in the city when the global media converge for the Olympic torch spectacle four days later. Local groups demanding the right to be seen and heard include SF Team Tibet, the Tibetan Association of Northern California, Human Rights Torch Relay, and Global Uprising for Tibet. Further information is available at SFTorch2008.org and Expose Beijing!. Supporters are urged to write Mayor Newsom at: email@example.com
World War 4 Report on the scene in San Francisco
See our last post on Tibet.