Torchbearers blanketed by wall of police

A large police presence during the Olympic torch relay through The City may have averted the chaos that marred the Paris and London legs of the journey, but it also made catching a glimpse of the torchbearers nearly impossible for spectators.

Even as the torch started up its unplanned route on Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco Police Department patrol officers and SWAT team members lined the sidewalk for three city blocks, moving spectators off the road and sometimes using batons to forcibly push people back onto the sidewalk.

With the new route lacking barricades, a police squad of 10 to 15 officers escorted the torchbearers. Inside the human wall were Olympic security officials, who oversaw the lighting of each torch.

Between 40 and 100 officers provided security for the route on foot. Officers on bicycles, motorcycles and dirt bikes also provided assistance.

The event, however, did see some skirmishes between police and protesters.

On Marina Boulevard, near Baker Street, about one dozen pro-Tibetan supporters — including Laurel Sutherlin and Duane Martinez, two of the protesters who climbed the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday — sat down to halt the torch’s movement. Officers moved them to the sidewalks, ending the standoff in less than one minute.

In all, there were three arrests during the day, according to the SFPD.

wreisman@examiner.com

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