Officials extinguish Olympic torch 3 times amid protests in Paris
Associated Press Writers
PARIS ” Security officials extinguished the Olympic torch three times Monday as protests against China’s human rights record turned a relay through Paris into a chaotic series of stops and starts.
Despite massive security, at least two activists got within almost an arm’s length of the flame before they were grabbed by police. Officers tackled many protesters and carried off some of them. A protester threw water at the torch but failed to extinguish it and was also taken away.
At the start of the relay, a man identified as a Green Party activist was grabbed by security officers as he headed for 1997 400-meter world champion Stephane Diagana, the president of France’s national athletics league, who was carrying the torch from the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. The man was tackled before he got close to Diagana.
The procession continued but, soon after, a crowd of activists waving Tibetan flags interrupted it for the first time by confronting the torchbearer on a road along the Seine River. The demonstrators did not appear to get close to the torch, but its flame was put out by security officers and brought on board a bus to continue along the route.
Less than an hour later, the flame was being carried out of a Paris traffic tunnel by an athlete in a wheelchair when the procession was halted by activists who booed and chanted “Tibet.” Once again, the torch was temporarily extinguished and put on a bus despite protesters’ apparent failure to get close.
The torch was extinguished for the third time when police interrupted the procession as a precaution because they spotted a crowd of demonstrators on a bridge they were approaching.
Police said they did not immediately have a count of the number of arrests. Mireille Ferri, a Green Party official, said she was held by police for two hours because she approached the Eiffel Tower area with a fire extinguisher. In various locations throughout the city, activists angry about China’s human rights record and repression Tibet carried Tibetan flags and waved signs reading “the flame of shame.”