Torch protesters scale Golden Gate Bridge

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Sent in by Michael A. Simmons from Palm Springs, CA.</span></div>
April 7, 2008 5:50:26 PM PDT
Three torch protesters scaled the golden gate bridge on Monday morning, displaying a Tibetan flag and banner with a "Free Tibet" message.

The protests could be a sign of what's to come in San Francisco.

The Olympic torch relay is this Wednesday, and San Francisco Police are making changes to their security plans to protect the torch relay runners. This is the torch's only stop in North America.

These protests are going to be stepping up; there is no question about that. The climbers who -- had experience on the Great Wall of China and also on Mount Everest unveiling banners, may have top themselves at the Golden Gate Bridge.

"I found out the torch was coming to San Francisco a year ago when I got back from Tibet, and knew something had to be done," said bridge protester Laurel Sutherlin.

Laurel Sutherlin and two other people were hauled away by the highway patrol after their dramatic protest on Monday.

They scaled cables near the south tower of the bridge to unfurl a banner that read: "One world, One Dream, Free Tibet 08."

It's a protest by a group know as students for a free Tibet in advance of Wednesday's Olympic torch run.

"We've been preparing for this for along time, taken every precaution to make sure that it's safe, non violent obviously. Our main issue today is that we're calling on the International Olympic Committee to withdraw all Tibetan regions from the torch relay route," said Yangchen Lhamo from Students for a Free Tibet.

For more than two hour the demonstrators hung from the bridge, 350 feet above the water.

This was a well-planned operation, down to the last detail including getting the climbing equipment onto the bridge.

"They came out with equipment in baby carriages and had technical climbing equipment on, the helmet, and all the gear. They came out on the sidewalk looking like regular folks visiting the Golden Gate Bridge," said Bridge spokesperson Mary Curry.

But as soon as the climb began, CHP and bridge patrol responded. One lane of traffic was shut down.

Five supporters on the bridge were taken into custody immediately and then began the long wait when bridge workers were in position, negotiations began.

"I simply made contact with them with a bullhorn and I advised they are putting people at risk. It's a pretty risky operation for them as well and I would prefer they come down on their own which they eventually agreed to do," said Bridge General Manager Kary Witt.

Two and a half hours after it began, it was over.

The protesters were taken away in handcuffs they face up to $10,000 dollars in fines and Students for a Free Tibet say there will be more demonstrations tomorrow and on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the bridge walkway where pedestrians and tourists usually visit is closed indefinitely.

View video taken by Students for a Free Tibet of the Golden Gate Bridge protest here.


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