Torch detour made the best of a tense situation?

The dust has settled, the Olympic torch is in Buenos Aires. Summing yesterday up:

  • The torch was run through the San Francisco’s streets, though not as planned.
  • The world saw it happen, while also seeing the passion of the thousands of protestors who forced the detour.
  • Many people who’d come just to see the torch were disappointed.
  • Nobody got hurt.
  • Only two or three people were cited by police.
  • One could make a pretty strong argument that things went better than most expected. Would it have been better to stick to the original plan, risking chaos far in excess of what we ended up seeing? Everyone had their say and got their publicity this way, and with so many angry people and so many law enforcement officers all jammed together yesterday, it’s pretty amazing things went as peacefully as they did.

    People should consider why San Francisco was chosen for the torch run in the first place, as the city has earned its reputation many times over as a hotbed of activism. Even if China hadn’t incurred the world’s wrath with its recent crackdown in Tibet, you can bet your bottom dollar that pro-Tibet, pro-Burma, anti-Darfur-genocide, anti-sweatshop, animal-rights and other activists would’ve hit the streets en masse here anyway — protesting is one of the things San Francisco does best. (I’m still convinced that somewhere out there among the protesting throngs yesterday was somebody toting a “Free Mumia” banner; mission creep is another thing San Francisco does best. But hey, that’s free speech — it’s not like we’re China or something.)

    If organizers had wanted a bucolic run, they should’ve taken it to any number of other U.S. cities: maybe Salt Lake City, site of the most recent U.S.-hosted Olympic Games, maybe Atlanta, maybe freakin’ Topeka. (Booooo, Jayhawks!)

    Bringing the torch here guaranteed yesterday’s result — a thorough airing of all views. The world saw the Olympic torch carried by proud Americans, and also saw it protected by a phalanx of officers as it dodged through San Francisco like the target in a carnival Whac-a-Mole game.

    Messages received; so much the better that they weren’t written in blood.

    Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.