Torch Relay protest in Paris
Ed. Note: As I add this article, it is being reported that the Torch has been re-lit!
From CNN – The Olympic torch has been extinguished by officials and put on a bus during the Paris leg of its relay amid anti-China protests, The Associated Press has reported. The incident came one day after anti-Chinese demonstrators made its journey through London more like running the gauntlet than a journey of celebration.
Thousands of French police are on duty to protect the Olympic torch after it departed from the Eiffel Tower at around 1030 GMT (0630 ET). It is then due to be carried through the boulevards of the French capital amid threats of protests.
Extremely tight security, however, could not stop determined human-rights activists in London Sunday from disrupting the torch relay several times, with UK police making more than two dozen arrests.
Paris police have conceived a security plan to keep the torch in a safe “bubble,” during its 17-mile (28 km) journey, with a multi-layered protective force to surround the torch as it moves along the route.
French torchbearers will be encircled by several hundred officers, some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on rollerblades and on foot. Chinese torch escorts will immediately surround the torchbearer, with Paris police on rollerblades moving around them. French firefighters in jogging shoes will encircle the officers on rollerblades while motorcycle police will form the outer layer of security. What do you think of protests at the Olympic torch relay?
The relay route in Paris is also significantly shorter than in London Sunday.
But the head of Reporters Without Borders, a French-based group that disrupted last month’s torch lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece, has told CNN his group has planned “something spectacular” to protest the relay.
Some torch bearers are expected to wear protest buttons while the Paris mayor has ordered a banner over City Hall that reads “Paris City of Human Rights.”
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said all options remained open for Paris concerning a possible boycott of the opening of the Beijing Olympics, The Associated Press reported.
In London Sunday, the Olympic torch was met with widespread protests and scuffles between demonstrators and police as thousands turned out to protest Olympic host China’s human rights record and its recent clampdown on Tibet.
Some demonstrators threw themselves at the torch, and at least one tried to snatch it away during the 48-kilometer (31-mile) relay. Another tried to put out the flame with a fire extinguisher. They were quickly pushed back and cuffed by Metropolitan Police, which said its officers made 36 arrests on a variety of charges.
After it has left the Eiffel Tower, the torch was scheduled to be carried past Parisian landmarks including the Arc d’Triomphe, the Place de la Concord, The Louvre and Notre Dame.
French Olympic champion Marie-Josee Perec, Portugal forward Pedro Miguel Pauleta and badminton player Pi Hongyan are among the featured torch bearers. At least six groups have permits to protest along the route, but only for demonstrations well away from the flame’s path.
Beijing Olympic spokesman condemned “attempts to sabotage” the London relay, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. The official was not named in the article.
China has come under international criticism because of its crackdown last month on protesters calling for democratic freedoms and self-rule in Tibet and neighboring Chinese provinces.
The protests have been timed to coincide with the run-up to the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in August. Look at a map of the international torch relay route »
Chinese authorities have denied these kinds of allegations and have accused the Dalai Lama of instigating violence among his followers — an allegation he rejects. U.S. and other Western leaders have called on China to provide civil rights and freedoms to those in Tibet and to enter peaceful discussions aimed at resolving the crisis.
In most cases, however, the torch passed through London without incident. Tessa Jowell, Britain’s Olympics minister, called it “a demanding day for the police” and for the Beijing Organizing Committee, but also noted thousands had come out “to welcome the torch.”