Thursday, April 10, 2008

Olympic torch protest postscript: Good call Mr. Mayor

Some think the coverage of the Olympic Torch relay in San Francisco yesterday did not merit the media frenzy it received. They would be correct.



If Wolf Blitzer thinks this was the biggest story of the day, who am I, a mere blogger, to disagree? So I was forced to declare a "Yossarian" on the story. Paraphrasing the Yossarian Principle from Joseph Heller's Catch 22 - "What if everyone was covering about the San Francisco protest of the Olympic Torch relay?" I can only respond as did Bomber Pilot John Yossarian: "Then I'd be a damn fool not to".

Since the biggest story in the world Tuesday was taking place in my backyard, I had no choice but to venture out from behind my keyboard into that space I like to call "outside". Armed only with a TREO 700P, I attended and live blogged a portion of the torch route on a supplemental team blog we set up for the purpose. I walked the "route not taken" from Justin Herman Plaza to the planned start at the ball park and back again when it became clear the torch was heading another way.
"It was an Olympic-sized fake-out, and by the end of the day, instead of the violent clashes that some had feared, the Beijing Olympic torch run left only thousands of frustrated protesters on one end of San Francisco and mostly relieved runners and officials on the other. The finger-pointing is bound to go on for days about whether changing the route at the last minute was right. But on Wednesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom and other officials said that once they got a good look mid-morning at the chanting, surging, flag-waving crowds along the torch's advertised route, they felt they had no choice."
Alan Steward Carl blogging at Donklephant characterized the decision to secretly divert the Olympic Torch relay route as "cowardice". I disagree.

I expected a carnival atmosphere, the kind of protest "circus" that only San Francisco can stage, and I was not disappointed. The biggest surprise for me was the split within the San Francisco Chinese-American community. There was a lot of emotion on display including heated arguments in the streets and we even witnessed a fist fight. I guess I assumed this was a one sided argument (Pro-Tibet), and had no idea about the depth of the division that exists in the community. It was almost as bad as between Obamites and Clintonistas. There were big crowds along the route lined with activists intent on stopping the run and there was a real potential for people to get hurt - including the torch bearers.

Net net - Mayor Gavin Newsom pulled this off brilliantly. The torch run in Paris was a wake-up call. In San Francisco, they got the message. No one was hurt, there were minimal arrests, the Chinese got a completed face saving ceremony and photo op, while much of the city was turned over to protesters. They, in turn, were permitted to vent their collective and variegated spleens with the media attention they craved for their respective causes. Entertainment was provided by the City and Olympic committee. Fun was had by all.

The oppression of Tibet by China is a deadly serious issue.

The San Francisco Olympic Torch Relay protest was not.

I am glad it stayed that way.

Well played Mr. Mayor.

x-posted at Donklephant.
UPDATED: 11-April-08 - Added Video and links.

2 comments:

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