Skip to comments.Protests halt Paris torch relay early (torch extinguished 3 times, carried in a bus)
Posted on 04/07/2008 10:01:43 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
PARIS - Security officials snuffed out the Olympic torch and carried it through Paris in the safety of a bus at least five times Monday before canceling the final run of a relay repeatedly disrupted by chaotic protests against China's human rights record.
Security officials put the torch on the bus for the last stretch but stopped right outside its destination, a Paris stadium, so a runner could finish the last 15 feet.
At least two activists earlier got within almost an arm's length of the flame before they were grabbed by police. A protester threw water at the torch but failed to extinguish it and was taken away. Officers tackled numerous protesters and carried some away.
The chaos started on the Eiffel Tower's first floor moments after the relay began. Green Party activist Sylvain Garel lunged for the first torchbearer, former hurdler Stephane Diagana, and shouted "Freedom for the Chinese!" Security officials pulled Garel back.
"It is inadmissible that the games are taking place in the world's biggest prison," Garel said later.
The procession continued but a crowd of activists waving Tibetan flags soon interrupted it by confronting the torchbearer on a road along the Seine River. The demonstrators did not appear to get within reach of the torch, but its flame was put out by security officers and put on board a bus to continue part way along the route.
Less than an hour later, the flame was being carried out of a traffic tunnel by a woman athlete in a wheelchair when the procession was halted by activists who booed and chanted "Tibet." Once again, the torch was temporarily extinguished and put on a bus.
The third time, security officials apparently interrupted the procession because they spotted demonstrators ahead. After the torch was put on a bus, protesters threw plastic bottles, cups and pieces of bread at the vehicle and at a male wheelchair-bound athlete.
The torch disappeared back inside the bus a fourth time shortly after a protester approached it with a fire extinguisher near the Louvre art museum. Police grabbed the demonstrator before he could start to spray.
The flame was whisked into a bus again outside the National Assembly, where protesters gathered. A session of parliament was interrupted and a banner on the building read: "Respect for Human Rights in China." City Hall draped its building with a banner reading, "Paris defends human rights around the world."
Other demonstrators scaled the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral and hung banners depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs.
About 3,000 officers were deployed on motorcycles, in jogging gear and with inline roller skates.
A Paris police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, says at least 28 people have been taken into custody during the protests.
Pro-Tibet advocate Christophe Cunniet said he and around 20 other Tibet advocates were detained after they waved Tibetan flags, threw flyers and tried to block the route. Cunniet said police kicked him, cutting his forehead. "I'm still dazed," he said.
Mireille Ferri, a Green Party official, said she was held by police for two hours because she approached the Eiffel Tower area with a fire extinguisher.
In various locations throughout the city, activists angry about China's human rights record and crackdown on protesters in Tibetan areas carried Tibetan flags and waved signs reading "the flame of shame." Riot police squirted tear gas to break up a sit-in protest by about 300 demonstrators who blocked the torch route.
"The flame shouldn't have come to Paris," said protester Carmen de Santiago, who had "free" painted on one cheek and "Tibet" on the other.
Torchbearer Diagana said he was disappointed to see the protests, though he understood why activists were there.
"Nothing is happening as planned. It's unfortunate," he told France 2 television.
At least one athlete was supportive of demonstrators. Former Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec told French television: "I think it is very, very good that people have mobilized like that."
Pro-Chinese activists carrying national flags held counter-demonstrations.
"The Olympic Games are about sports. It's not fair to turn them into politics," said Gao Yi, a Chinese second-year doctoral student in Paris in computer sciences.
France's former sports minister, Jean-Francois Lamour, stressed that, though the torch was put out aboard the bus, the Olympic flame itself still burned in the lantern where it is kept overnight and on airplane flights.
"The torch has been extinguished but the flame is still there," he told France Info radio.
Police had hoped to prevent the chaos that marred the relay in London a day earlier. There, police had repeatedly scuffled with activists angry about China's human rights record leading up to the Beijing Olympics Aug. 8-24. One protester tried to grab the torch; another tried to put out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher. Thirty-seven people were arrested.
In Paris, police had drawn up an elaborate plan to try to keep the torch in a safe "bubble." Torchbearers were encircled by several hundred officers. Boats patrolled the Seine River, which slices through the French capital, and a helicopter flew overhead.
About 80 athletes had been scheduled to carry the torch over the 17.4-mile route that started at the Eiffel Tower, headed down the Champs-Elysees toward City Hall, then crossed the Seine before ending at the Charlety track and field stadium.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has left open the possibility of boycotting the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing depending on how the situation evolves in Tibet. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday that was still the case.
Activists have been protesting along the torch route since the flame embarked on its 85,000-mile journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing.
The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to highlight China's economic and political power. Activists have seized on it as a platform for their causes, angering Beijing.
Beijing organizers criticized London's protesters, saying their actions were a "disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.
"The act of defiance from this small group of people is not popular," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee. "It will definitely be criticized by people who love peace and adore the Olympic spirit. Their attempt is doomed to failure."
The torch relay also is expected to face demonstrations in San Francisco, New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China May 4.
Policemen surround the bus where the Beijing Olympics torch has been placed for safety reasons, Monday, April 7, 2008, during its relay through Paris. Chaos has struck the Olympic torch relay through Paris, with security officials extinguishing the flame three times amid raucous protests. The Eiffel tower is seen behind. (AP Photo/Patrick Kovarik, pool)
darn those tibetan yout’ anyway..
There are still heroes in France. Good to know.
I am so proud of these protesters. FREE TIBET! I think it's ludicrous if our country goes to the Olympics and pretends China isn't arresting and crushing people for speaking out. China is RELISHING the opportunity to have the U.S. there, bowing to their will.
This guy looks stuned.. all these years and ya end up carrying a coldstick.
French former tennis player Arnaud Di Pasquale reacts as he carries an extinguished Beijing Olympics flame in Paris. Pro-Tibet activists disrupted the Paris relay of the Beijing Olympic torch, clashing with police and three times forcing torchbearers to extinguish the flame and take refuge on a bus. (AFP/POOL/Patrick Kovarik)
isn’t better to go to China with a 100,000 video cameras which can not all be stopped.
We have the timeless picture of a single student stopping a tank, why not the same iconic imagry out of china.
Just wait for PETA to start protesting pate at the 2012 London games...
Anything which shines more attention on the actions of the PRC is a GOOD thing.
They are one of the only countries to have still operational gulags.....and yet they remain a trading partner with MFN status.
I didn’t understand your comment. Are you comparing the oppression of an entire people with pate?
Hopefully some here too when the torch moves through San Francisco.
No mulligans for the Olympic torch! I think they should go back to Athens and start over.
Re: isnt better to go to China with a 100,000 video cameras which can not all be stopped.
Try doing that in a totalitarian country like China.
Where in the world is -- oh, wait... never mind.
A worker cleans up the National Aquatics Center, also known as the "Water Cube", in Beijing April 7, 2008. Beijing is one of the most polluted cities in the world and, despite a 120 billion yuan ($17.12 billion) clean-up over the last decade, air quality remains a concern for many athletes coming to the Olympics, already a lightning rod for rights protests worldwide. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA)
this is not about taking political enemies organs to be transplanted, and its not about aborting millions of female unborn children, or killing of female infants....
this is about the Dali Lama and Tibet....a very nice, quaint, politically correct cause that the moonbats in Howood like to support...
like I say, I don't know what to think of this...
Going there is implicitly sanctioning their treatment of dissenters. Unless the U.S. and other countries are planning to make a stand and boldly denounce China then shining cameras on them is meaningless. Where is Tibet after all these years? China is arresting people for protesting around the Olympics. What are we doing about it?
We are still buying Chinese products at our Walmarts and Targets.
And, if you look at the bottom of your computer mouse, chances are that it's made in China - unfortunately.
Oh, I know. My point is that if we want to make a statement that’s where we should do it.
Mine is made in China :(