A Dispatches report from Alison Satake for PBS Frontline/World:
It’s the night before the highly anticipated Olympic torch relay in San Francisco, and I am watching a training session for protestors led by Students for a Free Tibet, the group who scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to unfurl two banners the day before. A stream of young Tibetans files into the back of a Berkeley church until the room is filled. Lhadon Tethong, the executive director of the organization, arrives with a caravan of weary protesters who had attended a candlelight vigil in San Francisco. Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu had spoken there. So did actor and activist Richard Gere. Draped in Tibetan flags, with their face paint reading “Free Tibet,” the protestors look like sports fans after a long tournament.
The City has pulled a fast one, changing the route at the very last minute. A bus has taken the torch across town to Van Ness, leaving an estimated 10,000 disappointed people here at what was supposed to be the starting point along the original route. Saddest of all are the patriotic Chinese. Some of them spent the night here to watch this torch spectacle. Many are elderly. All of their costumes, signs, boxed lunches, and eager anticipation are for naught. At the moment, the City gives no explanation. And the once-fiery crowd responds with resignation.