Friday, August 8, 2008

Free Tibet Protests at GG Bridge and Chinese Embassy

As celebrations of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games took place in Beijing today, several hundred Tibetan people from around the Bay Area staged a peaceful protest at the Golden Gate Bridge....for first report see earlier blog...

The rope holding the protester rappelling down the side of the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday WAS cut by embassy officials, a leader of the Students for a Free Tibet said today.

Seldon, Regional Coordinator for the protest group, said one of the two girls on the embassy roof had pleaded with officials, 'please don't cut the rope because my friend could be in danger.'

But instead, officials cut the rope allowing 26-year-old Brihnnala Morgan to fall breaking a wrist and bruising her back. They then hustled 22-year-old Nyendak Wangden into the embassy. Nyendak is also claiming that staff beat her up. Certainly she has bruises, said Seldon today.

She was speaking by the Golden Gate Bridge after a peaceful Free Tibet protest walk across the bridge and back had finished.

On Wednesday the two girls on behalf of Students for a Free Tibet had scaled the embassy wall in San Francisco. Brinhnnala had then rappelled down from the roof as a black robed and hooded figure in a hanging scene to symbolise Tibetans who have died at the hands of China.

But then embassy officials ran onto the roof. Nyendak had been ready to comply with the officials' requests and pull Brihnnala back up to end the protest but despite her warnings of the danger the rope was cut, Seldon said.

Seldon witnessed some of the event. 'I was there. I saw her (Brihnnala) fall down,' she said.

A video film of part of the event was shot by chance by someone who overlooked the roof from a nearby building. Screened by NBC11 in their news broadcast, it shows embassy staff hustling Nydendak off the roof. But by then the rope had already been cut and there is no film of that. There is, however, news film of Nydendak shouting out as she got into a police car that the rope had been cut.

There has been some query as to whether the rope could have snapped.

Seldon says the rope could not have snapped because it was 'extremely strong and sturdy.'

If the rope had snapped, she said, it would have had to have been because Brihnnala had mishandled it and 'that is not possible because Brihnnala is an extremely trained professional who has done many acts of civil disobedience.'

It was somehow fitting that she was talking at the Golden Gate Bridge, for Brihnnala's last spectacular act was when she scaled the stanchions of the bridge in April. With two other protesters she hung 'One World, One Dream' and 'Free Tibet 08' banners between the cables prior to the Olympic Torch run in San Francisco.

On that occasion, though, there had been a problem with a rope when according to the report in the San Fran Chronicle a rope had become entangled.

Neither girl took part in today's protest. Nyendak was recovering from her injuries and Brihnnala from the experience of having been held in police custody until yesterday.

According to the San Fran Chronicle.... the girls have been charged with 'forcibly thrusting' themselves onto a building used for diplomatic purposes to 'intimidate, coerce, threaten or harass.' They have been released on $25,000 bail each and have been ordered to stay away from the embassy and its staff. Their next hearing is on August 20 and if convicted they face up to six months in prison or a $5,000 fine.

There are no reported comments so far from either the embassy or police who are investigating.

Another protester at the bridge yesterday, Gurmey, who was standing with a group of fellow supporters, megaphone in hand, said of the girls, 'It is good that they sacrificed themselves for the good of Tibet.

They just want to put the Olympic light on Tibet.'

Seldon was also excited about the Students For a Free Tibet protest that occurred earlier today at the Opening Ceremony of the Games in Beijing. Three protesters, Kaalayan, Jonathan and Caesar had unwound their tee-shirts and pulled out a Tibetan flag which they were able to wave for 40 seconds, she said, before they were pounced on by Chinese Olympic officials.

'It is an achievement to be able to do that!' she said

She and many of the Tibetans at the Golden Gate Bridge then moved on to the Chinese embassy to join other protesters mid-afternoon for a repeat protest.

Tonight a prayer vigil at the BART station across the bay in Berkeley is being held.

Other protests are planned including a rally that will be held at the end of the Olympic Games, said Tenzin Tethong, protest leader.

***Seldon has posted her own report of the embassy incident on the Students for a Free Tibet website.

Pics show Seldon, Regional Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet, and Gurmey, (far left) with fellow supporters.

For an album pics click here. Click on pics to enlarge.

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