It was a cautious decision, a safe decision, the decision you'd expect from an actuarial, or a hand-wringing assistant principal. But this call was made by one of America's most high-profile mayors.
Fearful of disruption similar to that which marked the Olympic torch's tumultuous trips through London and Paris, San Francisco Mayor
Thus did the security apparatus of the nation's 14th-largest city run up the white flag against an assortment of protesters with disparate agendas but one thing in common: a commitment to nonviolence. Sure, things might have gotten a bit bumpy if the (irony alert) Journey of Harmony had stayed the course. But no one was going to extinguish the torch -- not with San Francisco's finest surrounding the phalanx of Chinese special forces sent by Beijing to protect the flame at all costs. (
But protesters might have clashed with the cops, and those clips would have played on the evening news, a risk acceptable neither to Newsom, who has ambitions beyond San Francisco's City Hall, nor to USOC President
The first torchbearer began running at the appointed hour from McCovey Cove, in the shadow of AT&T Park. But after just 300 meters, the runner ducked into a warehouse. The flame was smuggled to Van Ness Avenue, miles from the scheduled route. The "relay" came to an unceremonious conclusion on an on-ramp to the Golden Gate Bridge. Closing ceremonies were canceled, and the flame was hustled to the San Francisco Airport.
Memorable moments from one scribe's personal Journey of Harmony -- my long, fruitless day in search of the flame:
"This isn't China," she replies, her anger matching his. "This is the United States. I go where I want!"
"Tibet IS free!"
"China lies, Tibetans die!"
And so on.
She sounds imminently reasonable, but then, she isn't finished. "You know what Tibetans do with their dead? They chop them up and leave them out for the birds to eat." After thanking her for this cultural insight, I take my leave of Mary, only to hear her shout at young woman in a Tibet shirt, "F--- you, Tibet!"
The young woman responds with a a retaliatory f-bomb, but Mary must have the last word: "F--- you and f--- all your ancestors!"
The relay doesn't
Turkic Uighurs from central China are but one of the many aggrieved parties with a fight to pick with China. Most of them are accounted for today. In addition to Team Tibet and the green clad members of the Save Darfur Coalition, is the plane towing the "Free Burma" sign. Falun Gong is here, as are some feisty anglers whose banner accuses, "Chinese Navy Harass[es] Vietnamese Fishermen." And then there's the guy with the "Go Warriors" sign.