Action Alert: Free Tibet,
March on the Torch!

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in News, Politics

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published on April 07, 2008 with 2 Comments

Protesters risked life and limb today when they unfurled
a massive “Free Tibet” banner on the Golden Gate Bridge.
(More photos after the jump.)
Photo courtesy Jim Herd,

By Chris Daly

April 7, 2008

Join me for an historic rally and March on Beijing’s Olympic Torch in solidarity with the people of Tibet.

Wednesday, April 9th, 12 Noon, Embarcadero near Market

Nearly two months ago, representatives from the Tibetan community began working with my office on a resolution for the Board of Supervisors. Tibetans were rightfully concerned that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was using the Olympic Games in Beijing to gloss over their program of cultural genocide in Tibet. San Francisco would be the only stop in the US for the Torch Relay scheduled to make its way to Tibet this summer.

On March 10th, Tibetan Uprising Day, I was set to introduce the resolution.

On the same day 300 brave monks set out from Drepung monastery outside of Lhasa on a protest march to Potala Palace in the heart of the city. The arrest of dozens of these monks led to further protests and uprising on the streets of Lhasa and other cities across Tibet. The Chinese government met these protests with a brutal crackdown, killing over 100 Tibetans and arresting hundreds of others in door-to-door raids.

This wicked turn of events in Tibet catapulted what would otherwise be a highly symbolic resolution into the national and international spotlight — drawing significant attention to San Francisco as we called out China’s abysmal human rights record – a laundry list of dirty abuses that extend from cultural genocide in Tibet to persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, from suppressing labor and environmental activists to stifling freedom of speech and press, and from militarily aiding genocide in Darfur to propping up a brutal dictatorship in Burma.

For months, Gavin Newsom had been working closely with top Chinese government officials on preparations for the torch event in San Francisco. For the PRC, the San Francisco leg of the relay had a unique importance due to our economic role in the Pacific Rim and for our significant Chinese population. For Gavin Newsom, the torch relay was a ready-made opportunity to elevate his national and international political stature.

But the veil of secrecy under which this planning took place became increasingly apparent as the Board’s resolution worked its way through the legislative process. Community groups and reporters alike were asking questions about the route and how protests would be handled. The answers were either not forthcoming (the route was not set) or the wrong ones (protests would be limited to “free speech zones”). Gavin Newsom also started to be asked about his position on human rights in China.

After the brutal crackdown in Tibet, it became increasingly difficult for Newsom to dodge these questions. One of Gavin’s political mentors, Nancy Pelosi, took a strong stance on the PRC’s crackdown, traveling to meet with the Dalai Lama in India. She said, “If freedom loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.”

Pelosi’s actions challenged Newsom to act with conscience, but instead he opted for the same line used by George Bush — politics, including China’s crackdown in Tibet, should be kept separate from the Beijing Olympics.

But the notion that we can somehow separate politics from an international event on the scale of the Olympics is an impossible one, even if the Olympic Charter wasn’t dedicated to “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” The Olympic Games have been necessarily intertwined with our politics and history. This was especially the case with ’36 Berlin Games, ’68 Mexico City Games, and the boycott games of ‘80 and ‘84.

While the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta had little international controversy, the local politics in Atlanta were very loaded. To make way for the Olympic Village, the oldest public housing development in the country was demolished. Thousands of people lost their homes while new laws were enacted to target homeless people.

Fortunately, Newsom ultimately backed down from China’s requests of limiting protests, although you’d think the Mayor of San Francisco would know better. The entire City of San Francisco is and will always be a “free speech zone.” San Francisco is known across the globe for protest, one of free speech’s most critical elements; from the General Strike in 1934 to the hundreds of thousands that flooded San Francisco streets to protest the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

So when the Board of Supervisors resolved that the Olympic Torch should be received with alarm and protest, we did so fully cognizant of the role of protest in our great City.

As the Olympic Torch approaches, it is critical that we acknowledge the situation in Tibet has reached a crisis point and appreciate the gravity of our opportunity to highlight the issue on behalf of those inside Tibet who are being brutally persecuted by the Chinese government for expressing their desire for freedom. We must build on the message that’s been delivered by people of conscience in Athens, London, and now Paris.

Our March on the Torch will continue the peoples’ story of justice — that this torch should not be allowed to go through Tibet. We will apply even more pressure on the International Olympic Committee to end their complicity in China’s brutal crackdown and send a clear signal to the PRC that they need to clean up their human rights record and end their brutality in Tibet immediately.

The cause of international human rights is coming to San Francisco on Wednesday. Please march with us to accept this enormous responsibility.

For up to the minute updates please text SFTORCH to 41411.

Photo courtesy Jim Herd,

Photo courtesy Jim Herd, simple private sharing

Chris Daly

Chris Daly is the Political Director for SEIU Local 1021, a union of over 50,000 public sector and non-profit workers. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2001-2011 and owns and operates The Buck, a bar and grill on Market Street.

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Comments for Action Alert: Free Tibet,
March on the Torch!
are now closed.

  1. Why do I get the sneaky feeling that it’s not just the torch that’s being passed to us here in SF, but the people’s power to make a better world—through the power of nonviolent action (see my March 25 and 27 letters to the editor).

    I admire and see the Olympics/torch as a symbol for what’s best and most noble in our species as much as the next guy, but why is it I remember so well and was so moved by—as a kid, mind you—those black athletes on the winners’ podium with their fists in the air during the 1968 Olympics? (sorry for the long link, but it has interesting info on it):

    The government of the “people’s” Republic of China have done some good things, but they had better brace themselves for a strong condemnation by the people of the world for their human rights abuses! San Francisco, let’s take the momentum from London and Paris and run (or walk, or whatever you want to do) with it!

  2. I am glad people are taking this opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses by the Chinese government. But, I must say Speaker Pelosi’s words on the subject ring quite hollow. After all, Pelosi is the most powerful person in Congress. Why doesn’t she do something about the abuses of the Chinese government? She hasn’t done a thing except talk. She needs to put her money and power where her mouth is. If she did, perhaps the Chinese and Tibetan people would not be suffering so much.