Olympic Torch Relay in London Disrupted Over Tibet

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/06/2008 07:52:00 PM
There really isn't much need for me to comment here. The 2008 Games are an absolute PR fiasco. Expect more of this sort of vehement protest against the PRC as the Olympic torch wends its way through other parts of the world. Taken from the Telegraph is a blow-by-blow account of the kerfuffles along the torch route. (Your eyes do not deceive you for it is snowing in Britain in April. CNN offers additional footage.)

The Olympic torch has arrived at the O2 Arena after chaotic scenes during its tour of London as more than 35 protesters were arrested. Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq was caught in the middle of an ugly scuffle as a man attempted to wrestle the torch from her hands.

The parade was brought to a temporary halt five times in its first few miles as anti-China protesters made repeated attempts to breach security, including one man who tried to extinguish the flame with a fire extinguisher.

However Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the torch at Downing Street, where at 1pm he posed for photographed alongside the torch - by which time 25 protesters had been taken into custody.

Vast crowds of peaceful pro-Tibet protesters – calling for independence from China – also lined the streets, chanting "Free Tibet" and booing the torch bearers. Britain's greatest Olympian, Sir Steve Redgrave, started the route at Wembley stadium in north London.

But within five minutes – after he had passed it to the second torch carrier - a protestor tried to steal the flame as it was carried on to a bus. The woman was bundled to the ground and arrested along with two others. She screamed at television cameras: "I urge you Gordon Brown listen. Free Tibet".

After a brief, quiet period, there were three incidents in 10 minutes in west London. Miss Huq, who had expressed her doubts about taking part in the event, ran with it for several minutes but as she stopped to pass the flame over, a man in a brown jacket grabbed it from her hands and six police officers and attendants were forced to wrestle it from him.

One onlooker said: "It was a very nasty scuffle and Konnie looked shocked by it all". Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell stopped the procession as it moved in a bus along Oxford Street, jumping out of the crowd and into the road in front of it holding a sign saying "Free Tibet, Free Hu Jia", referring to a Chinese dissident jailed earlier this month for "inciting subversion of state power".

Later another man ran out of the crowd and was stopped by police just before he reached the inner cordon. At 11.30am, a man disguised in a yellow day-glo jacket ran out from the side of a crowd and let off a fire extinguisher. He was forced to the ground as the air filed with white smoke.

Police then beefed up security, bringing in van loads of officers to flank the convoy running alongside it along with motorcycles and a dozen officers on bicycles closely guarding the torch. Around 15 Chinese attendants, dressed in blue and white, also huddled around it. Four minutes later the torch was passed to British tennis champion Tim Henman. He wore an uneasy smile as he watched the crowd closely, jogging down the road.

In Bloomsbury Square the ceremony came to a complete halt in a stand-off between large crowds of pro-China and pro-Tibet supporters. Sir Clive Woodward, the World Cup winning rugby coach, was confronted by three protesters immediately as he was handed the flame. They were all arrested.

In Trafalgar Square, as Sir Trevor Macdonald held the torch aloft, large groups of protesters clashed with police in the most violent scenes and six people were detained. Police say they have made around 35 arrests along the 31 mile route.
UPDATE 4/7/2008: Some suggested that things would calm down when the torch reached Paris. Guess again. The torch had to be put out twice as protests erupted there. The torch took the bus as well. It just goes on and on. The BBC has collated various wire reports below and has footage of the Paris imbroglio:
Protests against the torch relay ahead of the Beijing Olympics have spread to France's capital, Paris. Four people were arrested, including two who were taking part in demonstrations critical of Chinese rule in Tibet, AFP news agency said.

Officials twice extinguished the torch and put it on a bus for safety reasons. Earlier, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, expressed concern over unrest in Tibet and the torch protests…

About 500 protesters were reported to be involved in the demonstrations, mainly near the Eiffel Tower. Several hundred demonstrators waving banners gathered on the Trocadero esplanade where the relay got started at 1235 local time (1135 BST).

A member of the French Green party was restrained by police after attempting to grab the torch from the first of Paris's 80 torch bearers, former world 400 metres hurdles champion Stephane Diagana, Reuters news agency said. Police twice carried the torch onto a bus amid the demonstrations.

On the second occasion, the flame was being relayed out of a Paris traffic tunnel by an athlete in a wheelchair when it was taken onto a bus because protesters booed and began chanting "Tibet", the Associated Press reported.