Divergent crowd shares anxiety at torch relay

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Chinese and Tibetan flags blended into flashes of red, yellow, white and blue as the collective din of disagreement and tension hummed in the ears of spectators along the Olympic torch’s proposed route.

With pro-Tibetan freedom protesters turning out in the thousands, China supporters turned out in at least equal numbers — a primary reason The City was chosen to host the torch was its large Chinese population — with the tension palpable as the two sides stood side by side, waiting for a torch that never came.

On the Embarcadero, representatives from both sides left their sanctioned areas and shouted at each other nose to nose with no visible police presence to separate them.

Near Pier 39, about 200 Chinese college students chanting “Go Olympics” in Chinese mobbed a car carrying two people waving Tibetan flags.

Lei Liu, a 28-year-old Chinese citizen and Stanford University student, waved a Chinese flag near McCovey Cove and asked observers to look at the strides the country has made in development and its peace-loving people.

“Don’t just look at our downside. We’ve had great developments. We’ve changed a lot,” Liu said.

Lynnea Johnson, who traveled from Palo Alto to see the torch, said she did not see a violent situation, just arguments. She said she was astonished listening to pro-China representatives at how “complete the justification” was for actions in Tibet.

dsmith@examiner.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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