Monday, April 7, 2008

Olympic Torch Protests|Paris

(CNN) -- The last part of the Olympic torch relay in Paris has been cancelled, agencies have reported, after a day of chaos in which anti-China protesters forced authorities to extinguish the flame at least five times, take to a bus and skip some scheduled stops, including city hall.

Police and pro-Tibet protesters clash in Paris as the Olympic torch relay arrives in the French capital.
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There have been confrontations between the authorities and demonstrators throughout the day as the relay attempted to crisscross Paris, birthplace of the modern Olympic movement, passing landmarks including l'Arc d'Triomphe, the Place de la Concord, The Louvre and Notre Dame.

Police have taken numerous protesters away, some armed with fire extinguishers, The Associated Press reported, at other times using tear gas to remove demonstrators who lay in the road and tried to block the route.

The chaos comes one day after human-rights activist demonstrators made the torch's journey through London more like running the gauntlet than a journey of celebration, as UK police made more than two dozen arrests. What do you think of protests at the Olympic torch relay?

The chaos began almost immediately as French 400-meter athlete Stephane Diagana, the first torch bearer, left the Eiffel Tower at around 1030 GMT (0630 ET) -- only for Sylvain Garel, a Green Party activist, to try to grab the torch, agencies reported.

The torch was being carried by a wheelchair athlete when it was halted and extinguished for a second time due to demonstrators shouting, according to AP.

The procession was interrupted for a third time when police spotted a crowd of demonstrators waiting for the torch on a bridge as approached, the agency added.

Protesters close to the River Seine twice forced authorities to put the torch out and take to a bus so they could continue the relay.

But the Olympic flame itself, lit from the birthplace of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece and used to light the torch, continued to burn in a small lantern in the bus.

Jim Bittermann, CNN's senior European correspondent based in Paris, said that while it was hard to gauge numbers, it looked like thousands of demonstrators had taken to the streets -- although some were Chinese backing the Olympics.
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