I disagree with Alan’s characterization of “cowardice” in reference to the decision to secretly divert the Olympic Torch relay in San Francisco. I attended and live blogged a portion of the torch route on a supplemental team blog we set up for the purpose [Note: PG rating for language]. 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.
I expected a carnival atmosphere and the kind of protest “circus” that only San Francisco can stage. 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 with many 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. There was a real potential for people to get hurt – including the torch bearers.
I think 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 and 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.