Two Sides of the Tibetan Coin:  The Calm and The Storm
Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco, 8 April 2008
Page 1 of 4

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had awarded China with the 2008 Summer Olympic Games despite their abysmal human rights record.  Driving the point home was China's brutal crackdown of the March protests in Tibet, making China's killing of monks and violent tactics front page news throughout the world. 

Like it or not, the Olympics and politics once again walked hand in hand.

The minute the IOC awarded The Olympics to one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world on the basis of good merit, they made a political statement.

The minute the IOC decided to run the torch through Tibet while the China military was shooting unarmed monks and barring all international press or doctors from Tibet, they made a political statement.

The IOC continually makes political statements while saying that they want to keep politics out of their Games.  You can't have it both ways.

On the 9th of April 2008, San Francisco played host to the only North American appearance of the Olympic Torch.  On the day before this event, I accompanied four vans stuffed full of Tibetans and Tibetan supporters to San Francisco to photograph and participate in the protests for two days.  For many of us Tibetan supporters, we experienced two sides of the Tibetan coin - the spiritual and the political, the calm and the storm.

All photos and text by Ken Lee, Chief Engineer of The Tibet Connection Radio Show.

Use the marching soldiers to go backward or any good dictatorship would.

8 April 2008
To try and get up to UN Plaza in San Francisco in time for the various rallies on the first day, we left absurdly early in the morning.  All of us had gotten either no or very little sleep, and as the van rolled down The Grapevine, I saw the awkwardly positioned heads of the passengers bouncing along uncomfortably while one of the Tibetan gentlemen (photo below) gently murmured mantras.  This sound was to become my favorite sound on the trip, a beautiful contrast to the loud bullhorns and chanting up north.

The vans were organized by the Tibetan Organization of Southern California (TASC) to carpool up north.

We arrived in the United Nations Plaza a little late and a lot sore. 

Tenzin Chodon, the North American representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile, addressed the crowd, imploring the IOC not to run the Olympic torch relay through Tibet, which was still in military lockdown, with Kirti and other monasteries reporting hundreds of monks being taken away in the night, and no international media allowed in to Tibet.

The idea of running a lit torch representing the lofty ideals of the world coming together in the glory of Olympic spirit through Tibet seemed to ridiculous to even consider.

One of the hundreds of Tibetans who turned for the morning rally in UN Plaza in San Francisco, 8 April 2008.

Another Tibetan with a sign depicting the tears and blood of China's crackdown.

After several speeches by Tenzin Chodon, author Jamyang Norbu (not pictured) and others, we marched to nearby City Hall.

The sea of chanting protesters waving Tibetan flags and banners and signs for as far as the eye could see, united in their desire to stop the bloodshed in Tibet. 

This is the Tibetan man who softly murmured mantras periodically while we drove northward in our van.  I think he must be my favorite Tibetan since lately I've spent so much of my time photographing him (see the March 2008 protests in Los Angeles for more).

8 April rally at City Hall in San Francisco.

Samten, 5, joins other protesters on 8 April.

This photo has also appeared in the April 2008 issue of LA Yoga Magazine, accompanying an article by Julie Adler entitled Spotlight on Tibet:  Fueling the Flame.

After the deafening chants in front of the chilly windy City Hall, we continued the march, walking 15-20 minutes to the Chinese Consulate to continue our peaceful demonstration there.  Monks led chants of "CHINA OUT OF TIBET!" on bullhorns as we walked up the hill.

Famished, I wolfed down a hot dog in front of a hot dog stand, then ran uphill with two other Tibetans carrying flags to catch up with the marchers.  Several San Franciscans cheered us on, shouting "You're late!!  They went THAT way!" or "Free Tibet!". 

Giving the Chinese Consulate an earful.

STOP CULTURAL GENOCIDE IN TIBET banner circling around the Chinese Consulate.

In front of the Chinese Consulate at Geary and Laguna, 8 April 2008.

Sitting down in front of the Chinese Consulate as the chanting echoed off its walls.

Not just people from San Francisco, the coalition of Tibet supporters included people from all over the U.S. and beyond, including people from Latin America.

Namgyal Kyulo, President of the Tibetan Organization of Southern California (TASC) addresses the supporters in front of the Chinese Consulate.

"This is not about disrupting the torchbearers. This is about China using the torch for political purposes and we using it right back," Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet (not pictured here) announced through a bullhorn.

8 April 2008.

Singing Tibetan songs in front of the Consulate.

Tibetan Protest at Olympic Torch Relay, San Francisco April 2008
1 of 4

1     3   4

Eleven Shadows Travel Page
Contact photographer/musician Ken Lee

eleven shadows eleven shadows