Update 2: From BBC:
Confusion has marked the start of the only North American leg of the Olympic torch relay, as its route was diverted to avoid thousands of protesters.
Crowds of pro-Tibetan and pro-Beijing demonstrators are on the streets of San Francisco, prompting fears of violence.
Shortly before the relay began, police said the route would be cut. Then the lit torch was carried away from crowds.
There were disruptive protests as the relay passed through Europe. It will end in Beijing, home of the 2008 Games.
Meanwhile, President George W Bush has urged China to “begin a dialogue” with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a motion condemning China’s “extreme” response to protests in Tibet.
Watch a Reuters video on the San Francisco leg of the torch relay:
UPDATE: (April 9, 3:45 pm PST):
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the torch route is being significantly shortened following protests and clashes along the Embarcadero route:
San Francisco officials said they would cut the Beijing Olympic torch route short today, following a chaotic morning along San Francisco’s Embarcadero, where thousands of people descended to support and protest the torch run.
…Police said no arrests had occurred and that clashes related to the protests had been minor. But at least one person was detained in front of the ballpark this morning, and a few hours later, a confrontation between the two sides escalated to a physical violence, when a San Francisco man named Kevin Johnson, 48, walked into a crowd of torch supporters and began yelling, “Communists!”
Watch footage of protesters surrounding the bus carrying the torch in San Francisco:
(Original post, April 9, 9:59 am PST)
From the Los Angeles Times:
Hundreds of pro-Chinese spectators, many waving Chinese flags, took their places this morning along the planned route of the Olympic torch relay here, hours before the start of what is expected to be the latest chaotic leg as the torch makes its way to its final destination at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Already this city has seen high-profile protests, with climbers scaling Golden Gate Bridge cables to unfurl “Free Tibet” banners on Monday, and thousands gathered late Tuesday at a candlelight vigil to hear Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and actor Richard Gere rally support for the Tibetan cause.
The San Francisco leg — the only North American stop for the torch relay — comes after violent protests in London and Paris. In Paris, security officials halted the event and ushered the torch onto a bus. That decision came after swarms of protesters forced officials to repeatedly extinguish the iconic flame.
Read also Ben Arnoldy and Jane Lampman’s report on Christian Science Monitor: Olympic Torch Rallying China’s Critics:
The margins are also where Western leaders are feeling pressure to take action, says Jacques deLisle, an East Asian studies expert at the University of Pennsylvania.
“We have seen a deemphasis on human rights [in US-China relations] in recent years, much of it for good reason,” he says. “The problem is, getting the balance right again has become very difficult because China has become less willing to listen to this kind of criticism as it’s beginning to feel its oats as a major power.”
Strongly worded condemnations of Chinese actions in Tibet could be one US response, he says.
Read also: China doctors the news of Olympic torch on San Francisco Chronicle today.
Watch footage of a candlelight vigil featuring Richard Gere and Desmond Tutu last night in San Francisco:
And a peace march across the Golden Gate Bridge this morning:
More video news clips:
A group of photos about Pro-Tibet protesters is here, from Flickr.
CNN’s Live Developing Story: Olympic torch relay begins amid protest.
Here are some photos online, from dwnews.com: