As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

T-Minus One for San Francisco's Torch Ceremony

San Francisco authorities are justifiably nervous about providing a platform for Chinese propaganda at tomorrow's Olympic torch relay. The number and variety of protests are great and go beyond protesting the situation in Tibet. The Falun Gong will call for religious freedom inside China. Human Rights Watch seeks to call attention to China's deplorable human rights record. The San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition will be massing to call for China's end to its material support for genocide in the Sudan (you can hear Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's talking about this here). There are all sorts of reasons to be concerned for China's ascension to this position of prestige by hosting the Olympics. And recent events along the global parade route, particularly from the pro-Tibet activists, are having a real impact.

As thousands of pro-Tibet protesters cut short the Olympic torch relay Monday in Paris, a new Zogby Interactive poll finds 70% of likely voters believe the International Olympic Committee was wrong to award this year’s summer Olympic Games to China because of its poor record on human rights. Dissatisfaction with the IOC’s choice is strong across the political spectrum, with 70% of Democrats and Republicans, and 68% of political independents who said they disagree with the decision to have China host the summer games. A Zogby Interactive poll conducted in May 2007 found 44% had a favorable opinion of the IOC’s decision to award the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to China, while 39% viewed the decision unfavorably.

So San Francisco ought to be concerned with the scope and force of protests tomorrow. They actually should acknowledge them by canceling the parade. What does it achieve? Will San Francisco cover themselves in glory tomorrow? The protesters will show that the entire city is a free speech zone, and they will show the importance and power of activism. But the city will just be giving a platform to the Chinese to sanitize their image and whitewash the deplorable spots in their record. There's no reason for this and the potential for some ugly outcomes is growing.

Authorities in San Francisco, which on Wednesday will host the only North American leg of the relay, said they had closely watched events in London on Sunday and in Paris.

"We have a lot of concerns," said Sgt. Neville Gittens, a San Francisco police spokesman. "I don't want to identify them, but this is not a contained route security-wise, and there are lots of opportunities for trouble. We're watching what's going on very closely and will make changes to our plans as we figure them out."

Mayor Gavin Newsom met with Chinese officials in San Francisco on Monday to review security measures, which include requiring all rank-and-file police officers to report to work Wednesday. Meanwhile, at least two neighboring police departments have been asked to provide reinforcements, the California Highway Patrol will be on hand and the FBI is on standby, officials said.

I'm not sanguine about the prospects of this relay tomorrow. London and Paris were just a prelude.

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