( – promoted by buhdydharma )
Londoners awoke on a lazy, snowy Sunday morning to images of protest flooding their television screens, including one moment when a protester was almost successful in dousing the Olympic flame as it was carried by British celebrity Konnie Huq:
The Guardian reports on some of the chaos that ensued in attempting to carry the Olympic torch through the city:
Police were forced to bring in reinforcements to marshal the Olympic torch relay through London after a series of protests along the 31-mile route by demonstrators angered at China’s human rights record. More than 35 people have been arrested, all for public order offences.
At several times during the day protesters threw themselves in front of the runners and there were also scuffles between police and demonstrators. At one point, the torch procession even went the wrong way down a one-way street and was forced to turn round.
When the bus travelled along Oxford Street, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell stopped it in its tracks by jumping into the road holding a sign saying “Free Tibet, free Hu Jia”. “The arrest last week of human rights activist Hu Jia shows that China is not fulfilling its human rights commitments which were part of the deal for them to get the Olympics,” Mr Tatchell said. “At the very least, world leaders should boycott the opening ceremony and athletes should wear Tibetan flags when they go on the podium to receive their medals.” Mr Tatchell said he was detained by police but released with a warning.
The Times UK reports that, “flour bombs were thrown as officers struggled to restrain the demonstrators” outside the British Museum, while “at least a thousand” protesters were gathered at Number 10 Downing Street. Video posted on YouTube confirms the mass of humanity gathered there:
And the protests continued throughout the day:
Protesters and the media followed the torch towards Parliament Square as police surrounded the bearer en masse.
England cricketer Kevin Pietersen was given the flame and headed towards Westminster Bridge – walking rather than running because of the mayhem. Camera crews, photographers, members of the public and outraged protesters were bundled out of the way as police frantically tried to clear a path and struggled to maintain control of the situation.
Later, the violinist Vanessa Mae was supposed to arrive at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank by boat, but this part of the route too was abandoned and instead she carried the torch in on foot for a ceremony attended by Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman.
Additional video taken from the protests shows the Chinese attendants attempting to guard the flame flanked by London police in yellow jackets:
The Times UK covers previous statements from British politicians asking Gordon Brown not to participate in the torch carrying ceremony:
Earlier, campaigners and politicians called for Mr Brown to boycott the relay.
“It is deeply sad that the Chinese through their brutality in Tibet have contaminated the Olympic ideal,” said Norman Baker MP, president of the Tibet Society, in a statement on the Free Tibet Campaign’s website.
Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the BBC: “It’s wholly inappropriate that Gordon Brown is participating in this torch-bearing ceremony today.”
British comedienne Francesca Martinez explains to the BBC why she pulled out of the relay:
As she eloquently stated, any social or political change only occurs when all of us as individuals get together and fight for a better world. Many similarly minded people took to the streets of London today to show their solidarity with the people of Tibet and activists like Hu Jia.
As one protester shared his thoughts on using this event to make a statement with a reporter from New York Times:
One of the protesters who sparred verbally with pro-China groups in Trafalgar Square was David Phillips, a 25-year-old American from Austin, Tex., who said he had worked for six months at the American embassy in Beijing two years ago. Now working at a travel agency in London, Mr. Phillips said he had witnessed human rights abuses in China at first hand. “There are serious human rights violations going on, and you can’t ignore that,” he said. “And this is an appropriate place for us to voice our feelings.”
Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.
UPDATE: The Guardian has a timeline of the protests available here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl…
Among other things, protesters were asked to remove t-shirts and signs that the police considered “inflammatory”. Expect calls for investigations on this to be forthcoming.