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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Protest on 12th Avenue Takes Aim at Beijing

August 17, 2008

The New York Times
August 16, 2008

Late one night last week, five people stepped quickly down the
western end of 42nd Street and over to the concrete island that
divides the uptown and downtown traffic along 12th Avenue. One man
carried a gas generator and gas can, listing slightly against the
weight. Another wheeled a shopping cart topped with a blanket that
protected a laptop and a projector rated at 5,000 lumens, which is
about five times the brightness of projectors used in the average
conference room.

Within a few minutes, the generator was running. The projector was
powered up and pointed at the brick wall of the Chinese Consulate, a
building with virtually no windows on the western side. The laptop
was connected to the projector. Suddenly, an image of the Olympic
rings was beamed across 12th Avenue, 50 feet above the street on the
wall of the consulate. Then another image, a man facing down a tank
in Tiananmen Square. It was followed by scenes from the uprising in
Tibet this year; harrowing pictures of people who had been violently
killed; and a logo for "Team Tibet," a group of Olympians who exist
only in the imaginations of those opposed to the hand of the People's
Republic of China in Tibet.

The pictures were four and five flickering stories high. And for
about 25 minutes on the night before the opening ceremony of the 2008
Summer Games, that video, produced by Students for a Free Tibet,
looped against the wall of the consulate. The modern Olympics have
always been a theater for sport, commerce and politics, tightly
controlled by the International Olympic Committee and the host
country. This year, there are stages everywhere.

On Wednesday afternoon, a dozen people suddenly appeared in the
floor-to-ceiling windows on the third level of the Union Square
Filene's. Each unrolled a sign with a giant letter or number.
Together they spelled out "Free Tibet 2008," which could be seen for
blocks. And at the height of rush hour on Friday evening, more than
100 supporters of Tibet spread across the main lobby of Grand Central
Terminal, then froze in place, holding Tibetan flags.

For pure spectacle, it was hard to top the anti-Chinese video that
was streamed onto the consulate wall. Giant projections have been
used in other protests — in Los Angeles, for instance, critics of the
Catholic hierarchy's handling of sex-abuse allegations streamed
pictures onto the cardinal's residence. The tactic is a linear
descendant of the rock and slingshot, with images catapulted into
stinging view by a 5,000-lumen projector.

"It was a way to project our views without vandalizing," said Chand
Nirankari, a coordinator for the student group.

Nick Gulotta, 19, a student at the New School and one of the master
geeks involved in the projection, said, "We used their surface and
projected the truth onto it."

The location of the consulate -- it could be no farther west without
landing in the Hudson River -- guaranteed that few people would see
the video. Drivers streaming past on 12th Avenue might just catch a
glimpse. The students, though, were prepared to extend the
performance. They videotaped themselves setting up, the cars rolling
past, and later wove in the stark images that had played against the
wall. They immediately posted the new video on YouTube.

A few hours later, Mr. Gulotta said, a friend sent him an e-mail
message asking if he had taken down the video. He went to YouTube and
saw that it had been removed by a "third party" — the International
Olympic Committee — on the grounds that the use of the Olympic rings
was a copyright infringement.

Mr. Gulotta struck back, filing an appeal to YouTube, arguing that
the brief appearance of the rings amounted to "fair use" under
copyright standards.

"The I.O.C. was safeguarding China's image," Mr. Gulotta said.

Representatives for the Olympic committee did not respond to a
request for comment on Friday, but they had previously said that
their request to YouTube was made automatically by a software robot
that searches for unauthorized uses of the Olympic logo. (Normally,
the use of the rings is limited to commercial sponsors who have paid
for the right.)

In any event, the video was restored to YouTube this week. "That part
of the operation got more attention than the action itself," Ms.
Nirankari said.

So far, no one has tried to prohibit such projections. Ingenious as
the tactic is, it does involve hijacking someone's property, if
fleetingly. Mr. Gulotta agreed that the projections had to be used
"responsibly," but he said the Chinese government had it coming. "If
any individual had done anything to the level of what the Chinese
government has done in Tibet," he said, "they would actually be
inviting this onto themselves."
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