The Chronicle has an editorial criticizing the torch switcheroo:
Run ... for cover / Torch relay turns into keep-away game.
Everyone who turned out should feel cheated. Along the Embarcadero route, Beijing's backers and the groups opposed to China's policies in Tibet, Burma and Darfur didn't get a glimpse of the flaming torch. Casual observers who wanted to take in the torch's only North American stop were likewise left out. In effect, the event was canceled.
This was San Francisco's chance to show how it respects and handles vigorous political dissent. It is also the hub of a region with great pride in its Olympic alliances. Thousands gathered to see the torch and express their passions, positive and negative, about the upcoming Games. Regrettably, our city leaders chose to run away from them.
I agree with that, but I'm also realistic. I hadn't been sure if I was going to go, and the mayhem in London and Paris had left me leaning towards not. But at the last moment I thought to myself that I was about to miss an amazing spectacle, and figured I could stay out of trouble. Although I was busy, I thought I could take off at 11, and be back by 2:30. Besides, Harper was there. And so I changed out of my ironic-shirt-du-jour, jumped on my bike and headed down Market Street.
It was a gorgeous day in the city, and it felt like falling in love to ride through the middle of it at mid-day.
But when I got to Justin Herman Plaza, it was a circus. Harper and I (amazingly) found each other right away, and within minutes were approached/harassed by some Fox News clown with an agenda. We split, heading south towards the ballpark.
Years ago, when I was sad, I would go sit out on the Embarcadero at lunchtime all by myself and eat a burrito.
Today, there were thousands of emotional people with flags along the water. Thousands. I saw so many confrontations between pro and anti China groups and individuals that I find it hard to believe you could have run the torch up Embarcadero and not had very bad things happen. I was right there during The Bussing that's been cited repeatedly on the news. It actually was pretty alarming. One woman was trampled, several protesters were nearly run over, and then the crowd went apeshit on the vehicle.
This wasn't your average protest where you've got, say, 30,000 protesters who are against the war in Iraq and 2,000 cops who are against those protesters fucking too much shit up. There were two distinct and very pissed off sides (and I don't mean China vs. Tibet; there were all kinds of anti-China factions) and both were out in force. It would be a pretty reasonable assumption that something could go wrong.
And, plus, let's face it, it's San Francisco. You can't really predict it.
So they switched up the torch route, and left everyone guessing. The misdirection was fantastic. Was it on the water? Heading up 3rd Street? Taking the N Judah? All the sudden there was a rumor it was on Van Ness.
It was like a challenge. A game. Us vs The Olympics.
But we had bikes, and an "Eye in the Sky" (a friend was watching on teevee and updating via d messages on Twitter.) All they had was a plan. And so we were off, hauling ass through the city.
We caught up with the torch at Van Ness and Bay, we actually arrived at the intersection just moments ahead of it. The Eye confirmed the torch was on the way. Harper busted out her Tibetan flag. I got my camera. We had different priorities. I only saw one or two protesters there, definitely a lot more in the pro-China camp. And then it took a left on Bay.
We didn't follow, as it was a madhouse right behind the torch procession. I was thinking of heading back home. But then we decided to go for it again, and we were off, heading towards the helicopters.
We pedaled hard up the steep hill from the Warf into Fort Mason, and cut across over to catch it again as it rolled by Marina Green. There were several police and other law enforcement kinda boats heading towards Ft. Baker, and we thought maybe the torch was going to head under the bridge then get on a boat back to the Ferry Plaza--it's intended destination.
And we caught it again at Marina Green. This time it was under constant harassment from anti-China protesters. But the torch was fine. Nobody was doing anything to go after the torchbearers or to put it out. (I did yell at some punk kid to get off my lawn when he tossed a water ballon, but it looked incident-free) Not that it wasn't nuts. It was:
But it was peaceful nuts. And I was close. I got eyeball-to-eyeball with those creepy special agent secret service double super duper commandos-in-grandpa's-travelin'-clothes guys. I was actually eyeing the torch. I couldn't help it. "Could I grab that shit?" Yes, yes I could.
But I didn't. Nor did anyone else, and when the torch headed West, we pursued. I thought it was headed to Ft. Point. The gate. Some sort of watery exit. All that. But then rumors went around that it was headed to the bridge. So we beat it there.
Foiled again. We stood around for a while, getting bad intel from our Eye (thanks for nothing, Eye!) who eventually clued us in that the torch was headed to the airport. Then we got a text from the SF Team Tibet folks telling everyone to head to SFO.
And then we were besieged by the remaining media on the bridge. We were surprised to learn we'd seen more of the torch than they had. Harper was interviewed by a passel of journalists. She made the Chronicle, at least online.