07 April 2008
French police temporarily extinguished the Olympic flame three times in Paris Monday, as protests again greeted the torch during the latest stop along its 137,000-kilometer
The Olympic torch was again greeted with protests and scuffles Monday, as athletes carried it on a 28 kilometer route across Paris that started at the Eiffel Tower and headed down the Champs-Elysées before ending at the Charlety track, in southern Paris. Roughly 500 demonstrators against China's crackdown in Tibet gathered across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower at the start of the relay.
Demonstrators also unfurled banners from the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs, to protest China's human rights record.
Many, like this protester, focused on the events in Tibet.
"You know, Tibetan people, what's happening in Tibet today, many people are killing and there is strong repression in Tibet. So we are here to ask the receive some international community support to help us and to stop this repression in Tibet," he said.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe also canceled an Olympic torch ceremony and officials installed a Tibetan flag at the city hall.
No less than 3,000 police were on hand to guard the torch as it crossed the city. Nonetheless, they were forced to temporarily put out the flame at least three times to protect it from the protesters. The scuffles mirrored those that took place on Sunday in London, where police arrested 37 demonstrators. It was not immediately clear how many arrests took place in Paris.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not ruled out boycotting the opening Olympic ceremonies in Beijing. And in an interview on the French television station LCI Monday, his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said all options were still open.
Kouchner said France posed no conditions on China, but that it hoped Beijing would allow journalists to investigate recent events in Tibet and begin talks with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.
In downtown Paris, some, like retired stockbroker Jean Jacques Prequel, said it would be a good idea for President Sarkozy to boycott the Olympics' opening -- but not for France to boycott the games.
"I think the president has no need to go there, but I think that the athletes have to do their work, so why not? The bad thing was to take China for the Olympics," Prequel said. "But now it's done, so we cannot change a thing."
After Paris, the flame travels to San Francisco, where it is expected to be greeted with more demonstrations.