SAN FRANCISCO--Wearing T-shirts reading "Free Tibet," hundreds of protesters raised their fists here Tuesday to protest the Beijing Olympic torch relay's arrival to the city. Most were from the Bay Area, but some came all the way from New York and Canada to mark their opposition to the Chinese government's plans to carry the torch through Tibet and to the summit of Mount Everest.
SF Team Tibet, a coalition of Tibetans and human-rights supporters that organized the event, is calling on corporate Olympic sponsors Samsung, Lenovo, and Coca-Cola to withdraw their support of the torch relay. The organizers are also calling on international governments to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics "to show they do not endorse the Chinese government's brutal actions in Tibet."
Some of the groups in the coalition support the Olympics being held in China as long as the games result in dialogue.
Organizers of Tuesday's protests, which are expected to continue full force Wednesday, are, not surprisingly, using the Web as a tool at the site SFTorch2008.org. Not only is the site being used as a rallying point for information and photos, the organizers are signing up people to receive e-mails on events in the area and asking for donations.
The protesters are hardly the first to use Web sites. The massive rallies prior to the Iraq War--and flash mob-like protests in cities such as San Francisco--were largely organized through the Web and other electronic communications such as texting.
At Tuesday's protest, some demonstrators held up red signs reading "Made in China" to bring attention to Americans' use of goods made in the country. Last year, U.S. trade with China amounted to $322 billion in imports and $65 billion in exports, according to figures from the U.S. Census bureau. Twenty-seven percent of the imports from China, or $88 billion worth, were "advanced technology products," according to the Census Bureau, while one-third of the exports to China fell into that category. This includes computers, biotech products, solar cells, and fiber-optic cable.
Among the speakers Tuesday were representatives of Students for a Free Tibet, the Tibet Association of Northern California, and Regional Tibetan Youth Congress. Protester Thupten Dhondup, 40, was born in Nepal to Tibetan parents. "I came here today because I support the suffering Tibetans," he said. "So many people are being killed and nobody knows what is happening in Lhasa now; nobody is allowed in."Also at the rally, Tibetan monks released 50 white doves in a scene framed by a forest of colorful Tibetan flags brought by the crowd.