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Arrests Mar London's Olympic Torch Relay

April 8, 2008

By BRYAN MITCHELL

LONDON, April 8, 2008 (AP) — Police scuffled with protesters as
Olympians and celebrities carried the Olympic torch through snowy London
during a chaotic relay Sunday.

Demonstrators tried to board a relay bus as five-time Olympic gold
medalist rower Steve Redgrave launched the 31-mile procession at Wembley
Stadium. Three people were arrested, police said.

Later, in west London, another protester tried to grab the torch,
forcing police to briefly stop the procession as officers moved in to
grab the man. Another demonstrator tried to snuff out the flame with
what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

A few miles down the route, dozens of Chinese supporters of the Olympics
were waving large China flags outside the British Museum. Around the
corner, several dozen protesters were chanting "Free Tibet."

Activists demonstrating China's human rights record and a recent
crackdown on Tibet have been protesting along the torch route since the
start of the flame's 85,000-mile odyssey from Ancient Olympia in Greece
to Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

In London, host of the next Olympics in 2012, dozens of dignitaries,
athletes and celebrities lined the route.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he will greet the torch outside his 10
Downing Street home during its journey from Wembley Stadium in the
northwest to Greenwich in the southeast.

"It is also important to recognize, when you ask the question about the
Olympic torch, that the Dalai Lama himself has said that he does not
want to see a boycott of the Olympics," Brown said Saturday.

The torch's global tour is the longest in Olympic history and is meant
to highlight China's growing economic and political power. But it has
also offered protest groups abundant opportunity to draw attention to
their concerns.

"People are traveling from across the country and Europe as well to
participate," said spokesman Terry Bettger of the Free Tibet Campaign.

London's Metropolitan Police said it was aware of six organizations,
including the Free Tibet campaign, the spiritual group Falun Gong and a
group calling for democracy in Myanmar, planning to protest. The force
deployed 2,000 officers along the route.

The Chinese ambassador to Britain, whose role as a torchbearer has
become a focus of protesters' ire, said the Olympics should be viewed as
a sporting event.

"There's a lot more awareness about the influence of politics and there
are better means for solving political problems," Ambassador Fu Ying
told the British Broadcasting Corp. last week. "You don't solve them on
the football ground; you don't solve them in the swimming pool."

The BBC reported Thursday that Fu had pulled out of the relay, but the
Chinese Embassy said no decision had been made and declined to comment
on reports that a Chinese student organization has rallied members to
protect the torch as it crosses London.

Among the 80 torchbearers scheduled to take part are double Olympic gold
medal-winning runner Kelly Holmes and violinist Vanessa Mae.

Several torchbearers dropped out to protest China's human rights record.
Richard Vaughan, Britain's top badminton player, also said he would not
participate because China was not doing enough to stop violence in the
Sudanese region of Darfur.

One of London's oldest Chinese organizations said it was crucial that
the event not be marred by protests. More than 80,000 people of Chinese
descent live in London, making it the largest Chinese community in Europe.

"The Olympic games are very important for all Chinese. In Chinatown,
everyone is very anxious to see the torch pass," said London Chinese
Community Center spokeswoman Annie Wu. "We hope it goes smoothly."

The torch relay is expected to face more demonstrations in Paris, San
Francisco, New Delhi and possibly elsewhere as it weaves its way across
the globe on a 21-stop, six-continent tour before reaching mainland
China on May 4.

The torch was flown into London on Saturday from St. Petersburg, Russia,
where some of the city's most renowned athletes carried the Olympic flame.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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