Foreign Policy Blogs

Carrying a Torch

San Franciscans know that their politics are far from the ordinary, and most residents accept and defend their city'ssfolympictorch.JPG reputation for pushing the limits as an extension of free speech. Yesterday, however, the city had occasion not only to be liberal-minded but also smart. In one of his better decisions (and he's made several bad ones), Mayor Gavin Newsom yesterday moved the Olympic torch run to a different part of the city from the advertised route. Thousands of demonstrators, as seen here, representing the People's Republic of China on one side, and anti-Beijing protesters on the other, were given a chance to face each other down and argue throughout most of the afternoon, while the torch bearers ran down an impromptu route miles away. Had Newsom not made this decision, there would almost certainly have been disorder, injury and arrests. And the torch bearers, volunteers innocent of any political agenda, would have been exposed to undue risk.

The way San Francisco handled yesterday's protests stands in sharp contrast with the way Beijing handles protests in Tibet. If only China would think about this as they fold up their giant red flags for the next running of the Olympic torch. A few more Olympic flags, and a lot fewer Chinese flags, would be a nice touch.



Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy