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Five US activists detained after lighting up “Free Tibet” LED Throwies banner near Olympics site

August 20, 2008

Found this article via The Worst Horse from Boing Boing

An update on the pro-Tibet tech-art protests happening in Beijing: Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) tells Boing Boing that a group of five pro-Tibet activists displayed an LED Throwie Banner near the Olympics site in Beijing. The protesters, all of whom are US nationals, were promptly detained by Chinese authorities.

From SFT, via email to BB:

This was inspired by GRL’s “Throwies” project, and the building and implementation of this was done by a complete separate group of Tibet activitists. They combined a traditional protest banner with over five hundred throwie lights and batteries sewn and taped onto the banner.

Details on the SFT website, Photos on Flickr, and here is a short video. “Still no more news on GRL founder James Powderly at this point,” a SFT rep tells us. Previous BB post on Powderly’s detention in Beijing, over 24 hours ago.

Here’s a snip from the SFT press release about today’s action:

Five pro-Tibet activists unfurled a banner spelling out “Free Tibet” in English and Chinese in bright blue LED “throwie” lights in Beijing’s Olympic Park tonight. The five were detained by security personnel after displaying the banner for about 20 seconds at 11:48 pm August 19th. Their whereabouts are unknown. The detained activists are Americans Amy Johnson, 33, Sam Corbin, 24, Liza Smith, 31, Jacob Blumenfeld, 26, and Lauren Valle, 21.

“The Chinese government is desperate to turn the world’s attention away from its abuses in Tibet as the Olympics take place, but the creativity and determination of Tibetans and their supporters has once again ensured that Tibetan voices are heard and seen in Beijing despite the massive security clampdown,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “The Chinese leadership must realize that the only way it can make the issue of Tibet disappear is to acknowledge the demands of the Tibetan people and work with them to bring an end to China’s occupation of Tibet.”

The lights used on the banner are blue 10 mm light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by small batteries, commonly known as “throwies.” Throwies are open-source technology attributed to OpenLab and Graffiti Research Lab, developed as a means of creating non-destructive graffiti and light displays. This is the first time ever that they have been used on a banner. James Powderly, free speech activist and co-founder of the Graffiti Research Lab (GRL), was detained in Beijing early this morning (see http://freetibet2008.org/globalactions/jamespowderly).

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