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San Francisco's Olympic Torch Relay Draws Major Protests

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MSNBC reports:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that while she does not advocate a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, she does think that the attendance of world leaders at the Opening Ceremonies would "give credibility and face" to the Chinese government and that a boycott should be considered by the president...

...After meeting with the First Minister of Singapore, Bush continued to pressure China on Tibet: "We both agree that it would stand the Chinese government in good stead if they would begin a dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama. They'll find -- if they ever were to reach out to the Dalai Lama -- they'd find him to be a really fine man, a peaceful man, a man who is anti-violence, a man who is not for independence but for the cultural identity of the Tibetans being maintained."

The AP reports that the Olympic torch relay has begun its San Francisco leg, albeit on a much shorter route:

The Olympic torch was rerouted away from thousands of demonstrators and spectators who crowded the city's waterfront Wednesday to witness the flame's symbolic journey to the Beijing Games.

The first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before running into a warehouse. A motorcycle escort departed, but the torchbearer was nowhere in sight.

Then officials drove the Olympic torch about a mile inland and handed it off to two runners away from protesters and media.

The Washington Post reports that a high-ranking Olympic official has called the anti-Chinese protests during the Olympic torch relay "unacceptable":

A high-ranking Olympic official declared Wednesday that anti-Chinese protests during the torch relay had been "unacceptable," while acknowledging that he had watered down an official statement urging China to settle the conflict in Tibet...

...protesters in San Francisco vowed to extinguish the torch on its only North American stopover and as the China-appointed governor of Tibet promised "severe" punishment for anyone who interferes with the torch as it makes its way through the Himalayan region in the coming months.


From the AP in San Francisco
:

Security was being tightened around the city Wednesday as officials mobilized for protests in response to the Olympic torch's only North American stop on its journey to Beijing.

The Olympic torch's 85,000-mile global journey is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to build excitement for the games. But it has also been a target for activists angered over China's human rights record.

As runners carry the torch on its six-mile route Wednesday, they will compete not only with people protesting China's grip on Tibet and its support for the governments of Myanmar and Sudan, but also with more obscure activists. They include nudists calling for a return to the way the ancient Greek games were played.

Keep reading here.

The protests in San Francisco received some star power when actor Richard Gere and Bishop Desmond Tutu lent their voices to calls for Bush to boycott the Olympics' opening ceremony.

Watch footage of Mr. Gere and Mr. Tutu speaking at the protests:

Watch the turbulent protests in Paris:

Watch footage of earlier protests in London as the Olympic torch made its way through the UK: