Wednesday, April 2, 2008

San Fran Divided over Olympic Torch

When it comes to the Olympic Torch, San Francisco is a city divided against itself.

A city official, known as a 'supervisor', successfully carried a resolution yesterday that called on Mayor Gavin Newsom to accept the Olympic Torch with 'alarm and protest.'

The report, in the San Fran Chronicle, quotes Supervisor Chris Daly as saying, 'The eyes of the world will be on San Francisco, and, let's be honest, if there is not alarm and there is not protest in San Francisco when the torch arrives here, that too would be news, and that would be San Francisco complicit in the human rights violations that are happening in China and around the world.'

His resolution before the Board of Supervisors also called for an international investigation into China's treatment of Tibetan dissenters and was passed by a vote of 8-3.

The television channel NBC11 showed a round of cheers erupting from protesters as the result was announced in the Civic Center.

However, a spokesman for Mayor Newsom was afterwards quoted as saying, 'It is highly unlikely the mayor is going to let Chris Daly put words in his mouth.' He also said that the mayor had discussed the situation with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the Dalai Lama.

In other words, it is a short term political victory but will not carry through to Wednesday's event.

Mayor Newsom who regardless of his views on human rights is also the figurehead of the only North American city to have the Torch, was seen on televison and quoted in the Chronicle pleading with protesters to not disrupt the Torch procession but to remember that the Olympics are about athletics and not politics.

'Don't protest the torch bearers,' he said. 'Please separate your condemnation from the person who's running or in a wheelchair carrying the torch.'

The Chronicle also reported on a letter from the Chinese American Association of Commerce signed by 105 city-based Chinese organizations.

The letter called on officials to 'prevent the city from being kidnapped by a few political extremists who want to make use of the Olympic Games to advance their own political gain.'

The Chinese Consulate, too, opposed any official city protest.

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