Wednesday. I arrived at the Embarcadero BART station around eleven and left just after one when the Olympic torch was scheduled to set out along the Embarcadero from the Giant's baseball stadium area. It was crowded when I arrived and really crowded when I left, learning later they'd run the torch along Van Ness Avenue, some two or so miles south of the course they'd announced. Lots of people, lots of photographs, my back aching (not the legs or the breath, just the back - maybe some situps would help?), but the mood good. Good and tired.
So I got some pictures, one or two where you can see this was a demonstration, most of them tightly cropped portraits that could have been taken anywhere of people doing anything (notice the photo at the top). The whole community out in force, the press here, the press there; the old, the young, the Asian community out in strength with every kind of painted face, sign, stamp, hat, banner and balloon figure.
The crowd while I was there was large and, although serious, in a generally good mood. Not that there was any agreement between the competing groups, but as a card carrying ACLU'er who's a little hyper when it comes to free speech and one who considers “Free Speech Zones” both Orwellian and un-American, you can understand I find something like this to be a sign we may still have something approaching a functioning democracy here in the States. No government likes hearing dissidents going after them in a public forum - our government here or China's government there - but I think the people of both our countries invariably need more rather than less of this kind of public discussion.
So you think this thing went well?
I would rather they had run the original route and put in place what police presence was needed to control the crowd. I won't quibble with the mayor's decision that people would have been hurt, that his police arrangements weren't adequate to protect both the torch and the crowd. I would not have liked to have been in the middle of that crowd had things gotten out of hand. I was a good crowd, but it was a crowd and in a crowd anything can happen. Then again freedom of speech isn't free, it doesn't come without sacrifice, but I'm a fat assed old man sitting comfortably in his chair at a computer pontificating as if I really knew what I was talking about, just as I believe our current President is a fat headed man sitting comfortably in smug satisfaction that his vision of the world requires hundreds of thousands of people to die in order to bring them to his enlightenment.
So your contributions to human rights today were some pictures of pretty girls and an aching back?
Better pictures and an aching back than nothing.