Richard Gere joins San Francisco torch protests, urges nonviolence

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SAN FRANCISCO " Hollywood's most outspoken Buddhist lent his voice to Tibetan protests Tuesday night with a condemnation of China and a call for nonviolence, capping off a day of demonstrations before the Olympic torch relay.

"This torch is going through China and the world co-opting the idea of harmony to push a political position," actor Richard Gere told hundreds attending a candlelight vigil in downtown San Francisco.

The official theme of the 21-country torch relay, which includes plans for a contentious leg over Mount Everest and through Tibet, is "The Journey of Harmony." Chaotic protests by human rights activists greeted the torch relay in London and Paris over the past week.

The 58-year-old star stopped short of calling on protesters to not disrupt Wednesday's six-mile relay along San Francisco Bay. But he did read what he described as a message from the Dalai Lama reminding demonstrators of the exiled Tibetan leader's stated support for the games and his long-standing philosophy of nonviolence.

"It is the legitimate right of every Tibetan to struggle for their freedoms and rights," Gere said, reading from the text. "On the other hand, it would be futile and not helpful to anyone if we do something that would create hatred in the minds of the Chinese people."


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