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Olympic torch bearer from Bronx in Tibet protest

April 11, 2008

By SOU YOUN in San Francisco and BILL HUTCHINSON in New York
Daily News Writers
The New York Daily News
Thursday, April 10th 2008

A New Yorker bearing the Olympic torch staged a rogue anti-China protest
Wednesday even as cops took extreme measures to thwart demonstrators in
San Francisco.

As she ran with the flame, Majora Carter, 41, a South Bronx
environmental activist, whipped out a small Tibetan flag to condemn
China's human rights abuses in the Himalayan province.

Carter, who hid the flag in her sleeve, was quickly hustled off the
route by surprised police who seized the torch.

"I was expressing my right as an American citizen using freedom of
speech in support of people who don't have it," Carter said. "It just
became really clear to me what was going on in Tibet and I wanted to do

Carter said a Chinese paramilitary squad escorting the torch pounced and
turned her over to cops, who pushed her into the crowd.

"Apparently, I'm not part of the Olympic torch-bearing entourage
anymore," Carter quipped.

Carter's maverick move was the most successful act of defiance in the
cat-and-mouse game cops played with the thousands railing against
China's crackdown on dissidents in Tibet and its unwillingness to
denounce genocide in Darfur.

Officials dramatically altered the planned path of the torch relay at
the last second, busing it miles away from where thousands of
demonstrators waited.

Fearing a repeat of clashes that erupted in Paris and London, Bay Area
officials pulled the elaborate switcheroo that allowed the relay to
start in a quiet part of the city.

Demonstrators waiting on the waterfront Embarcadero since dawn cursed
the sneaky detour.

"I think it's cowardly," said Matt Helmenstein, 30, as he packed away
his Tibetan flag.

Other spectators who came out in droves to cheer China's hosting of the
Summer Games also felt swindled.

"We were cheated," said Michael Huo, 30, a Chinese engineer who works in
Silicon Valley. "The relay was to show the whole world that our
country is hosting the Olympics."

The torch run, the only North American stop on the Olympic symbol's
international tour, wasdelayed 20 minutes as officials made their
eleventh-hour changes.

The flame appeared on a podium at 1:30 p.m. near the bayfront AT&T Park,
where the first runner's torch was lighted.

The female torchbearer then ran directly into a nearby warehouse. About
45 minutes later, the flame reappeared across town, where runners, two
at a time, began a course to the Golden Gate Bridge.

A closing ceremony for the event was scrapped as the flame was hurried
to the airport and flown out of town.

Besides Carter, retired NYPD cop James Dolan, 64, and retired FDNY
Firefighter Richard Doran, 57, participated in the relay, which in the
end was pared down from 8 miles to 4 miles.

Doran wore his Rescue 4 helmet in honor of the 343 members of the FDNY
killed on 9/11.

He called his run "fantastic, unbelievable" and said he was thrilled to
be paired with two-time Olympic volleyball player Kerri Walsh.

But he was critical of Carter's protest.

"I think it's disgusting, appalling," Doran said. "It violated every
paper we signed about the sanctity of the event."

Amid the chaos yesterday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced
he would not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in
August. The Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sens. Hillary Clinton and
Barack Obama, called on President Bush to follow Brown's example.
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