Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Torch Goes Down Under

Once again, the Olympic torch has brought protest and controversy with it as it travels around the world. Most recently, the torch made its stop in Canberra, Australia. Not surprisingly, there was a good deal of disruption as many Aussies made it known that they do not support China's human rights policies. As describe by CNN, protesters attempted to display a large laser-lit sign on the Harbour Bridge of Sydney. The glowing sign, which was removed by police before daybreak, read "Don't Torch Tibet". Other signs around the Sydney area were unveiled as well. The following video shows two individuals covering a Coca-Cola billboard with a look-a-like banner reading "compassion".


The banner, which was lowered by a few protestors who had gained access to the elevated billboard location also urged China to talk to the Dalai Lama. Those pictured hanging the sign have been detained by Australian authorities, and are expected to be charged (although if they are punished in the same manner as those responsible for the laser display, they should not face much more than a small fine).

Although they did commit illegal acts, I believe that the individuals responsible for the "Don't Torch Tibet" and "Compassion" signs were successful in their efforts. They did not harm anybody, and succeeded in expressing themselves in highly public locations. To add to their success, they managed to use their arrest as a chance to "mute the weapons of the enemy". In this case, the opposition was attempting to remove their signs from public view so as to not allow their ideas to spread. In reality, however, the arrests of these pro-Tibetan activists have already brought a great deal of media coverage. Within 24 hours of their acts, videoclips on Youtube and news stations have been broadcasting the messages of the protestors to millions across the world. The much publicized hanging of the anti-Chinese banners has brought a continued amount of attention to the pressing issue of Tibetan suppression by the hosts of this Summer's Olympics, and should be considered a success from a non-violent perspective.

P.S. - on an interesting side note, there was a verbal battle between Chinese and Australian officials during the press conference which announced the arrival of the torch. It looks like the Australian Olympic officials are capable of expressing themselves just as well as some of the citizens.

1 comment:

Nicole Pedi said...

This form of protest really is strategic because of the media attention that the Olympics receives. When you combine that with witty look alike Coke signs, there's obviously going to be coverage of your cause. The Australians' actions also have the power to impact those in places where the torch will travel to next, allowing people following the cause to continue to protest when the torch reaches them, building worldwide support.