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

Blog: Tibetan Protests

August 12, 2008

T.S. Sowers
August 6, 2008

I've seen my fair share of protests in my day. The first I remember
were in Kosovo. In a country and a time where you had over 80%
unemployment, protests rapidly became simply something to do. My
platoon saw a couple and usually it was about 10 central figures,
reading scripts, chanting slogans, and about a hundred kids and stray
dogs. Usually these were controlled, except with the insertion of
media. Then all bets were off as the camera became the focal point.
I've heard a political maxim that if the media weren't there, it
didn't happen. Later, I would read reports of protests of hundreds of
people; while technically true, the counting of kids and dogs just
didn't seem fair.

The next big protest I witnessed was during the Bolivian revolution
of October 2003. Trying to get into Bolivia, to meet up with a friend
from Rolla, from Peru proved very difficult; a group of Aussies and I
were the last bus into the capital La Paz, after a fairly stupid
midnight attempt to run through the protest blockades. The 12 hours
it took to make the typical three hour trip included watching a bus
driver get beaten with a cane pole, getting chased by Alto Planos,
and moving about a thousand rocks off the highway so we could get our
bus through. After making it into the capital, and getting one day to
buy up a ton of pashminas and scarves, tens of thousand of the
indigenous population completed their cordon of the city and marched
through the center. They weren't happy about the government, their
American educated president, or the U.S. As I watched one from the
edge, tear gas canisters landed a few feet away. I decided to get out
on the next flight. Bolivia's government fell a few days later.

In London in February 2003, I saw what became the largest protest in
UK history, against the Iraq War. Hundreds of thousands filled the
streets, with signs protesting Palestine, Iraq, etc. From Kosovo, to
Bolivia, to London, all had the common thread of an anti-American tinge.

About 15 minutes ago, I saw my first protest in the streets of
Dharamsala, and my first where the U.S. and our policy was actually
liked instead of loathed. By my rough estimate, about two thousand
Tibetans or Tibetan sympathizers marched through the streets of
Dharamsala. Ethnic Indians folded arms and tried to force their
scooters and minivans through a sea, the first third were the maroon
cloaked Buddhist monks, with two thirds of mostly Tibetan youth
following. As opposed to the quiet, candlelight processions, filled
with many Western tourists, that occur nightly in McLeod Gang, this
one exhibited a different tenor...more anger, more Tibetan more
organization. Several individuals with bull horns read scripts of
chants, most in English...the classic "what do we want..." stood out.
A robed monk used a high quality camera to video tape the procession.
With the Olympics only a day away, it appears that it is not just the
Chinese who are organized and concerned about their media image.

* T.S. Sowers -- An Instructor at West Point's Department of Social
Science (known as a Sosh-P), currently leading a group of eight
cadets on a trip to Dharamsala, India.
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