Back in Toronto now after what was a 24 hours a day week in San Francisco. Looking back at the day of the disastrous Torch run, I have come to the conclusion that protests against the Chinese government’s actions in Tibet, Burma, Sudan, East Turkestan, Taiwan, and China itself has now truly become a popular, global movement of the people. Standing on Embarcadero street, listening to speeches at Ferry Park, doing interviews beside the tacky and overzealous Chinese propaganda show (with Chinese impersonating Tibetans)…I not only saw thousands of my fellow countrymen and women, but thousands and thousands of ordinary citizens who had come with home-made signs and props supporting our cause.
Credo – a telephone company – had produced hundreds of placards that read “Another________ who supports a free Tibet,” Taiwanese Americans had a banner that read “Taiwanese-Americans support a free Tibet,” business men in their crisp suits walked around with their own placards and Tibetan flags, hundreds of families had showed up and were wearing Tibetan stickers on their clothes, I even saw a man with a fake fire extinguisher that said “monk dust.” It was overwhelming; it was more support than I ever dreamed we would get in San Francisco.
There were some tense moments, some shouting matches, but all in all, the Tibetan people showed incredible dignity and restraint. Many of us in fact saw Chinese people verbally attacking ‘injis’ or non-Tibetans who were supporting Tibet. One particular argument I remember involved a black man and a group of Chinese people. He was holding a Free Tibet placard and just walking around. A Chinese girl engaged him and started yelling at him. “Why are you here? Go home. Go back to work. Everything they say is lies. Lies lies lies.” He was adamant that it was his right to stand on the street and express his views just as it was hers. But the girl and her group weren’t ready to learn about democracy even though they were enjoying all of its benefits while living in the US. Unfortunate. And telling.
In the end the Torch route was rerouted so far off track that they had to cancel the closing ceremonies. They attempted to do one at the Golden Gate bridge but seeing that protesters weren’t too far away, they jetted to the airport for a make-shift ceremony with just the runners and the officials. It was a far cry from the party the Chinese government hoped to see. I am so proud of the message we sent from San Francisco, and North America as a whole. This is how the world should’ve treated Hitler’s Torch relay. I’m glad we were ready this time.
Oh and Ali and the rest of the Golden Gate activists were released the night before. They were such troopers. They did media all morning and all day at the protests. With people like them, and countless others who worked quietly and behind the scenes for days and days AND are ready to do so much more, the Chinese government is sweating through their bedsheets. Rightfully so.