Citing security concerns, Police Chief Bernard Melekian on Tuesday rejected a proposal by critics of China to precede the Tournament of Roses parade with a human-rights march down Colorado Boulevard.
The decision was made during a morning meeting of Tournament officials, the chief and John Li, head of Caltech’s Falun Gong club, which has opposed a float linked to the People’s Republic of China’s in the internationally televised Rose Parade.
Li and other critics of China’s human-rights record proposed allowing a 100-person marching band and a Human Rights Torch Relay about two hours before the parade.
More significantly, they said, they won the Tournament’s support for what could have been the first such procession before the tradition-steeped parade.
“Everything was settled until Bill Flynn presented the timesheet to the Police Department,” Li said of their detailed proposal.
Accommodating a band, a double-decker bus and other vehicles inside the security zone on Jan. 1 was unworkable, Melekian said.
So, a city such as Pasadena that’s bristling with cops and has no crime can’t handle baby-sitting a bus and a band at seven in the morning on New Year’s Day? All the criminals and roustabouts will be sleeping off their booze! What’s to protect against? And the protestors themselves are not young yippie radicals–they’re concerned citizens, with an average age (I’m guessing) of about 50. They probably could have gotten Polident to sponsor the event!
And, most importantly, the parade organization already approved the plans, a first in the history of the Rose Bowl parade. This is just the police chief being a jerk.
If anything needs a protest, it’s China’s float in our goddam Rose Bowl parade. As a child, I was visiting Beijing on the very first day of the Tiananmen Square protest (way before the crackdown that came a week later). I remember first hand the horror and brutality we saw on TV, as China proved itself in no uncertain terms an enemy of the people, a regime as savage and intolerant as Franco’s or Mussolini’s. And though diplomacy with a nation as powerful and populous as China has to be delicate, I do wonder why we kiss their government’s ass so much without condemning their continued human rights abuses. That goes double for corporations such as Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google, who are openly complicit in crushing freedom of speech over there. Even their government’s plans for the 2008 Olympics are causing people in China to be displaced and trampled upon, and no one is talking about this. And now, the one organization that is talking about it is being silenced for no good reason.
This displacement of protest from the common forum, of freedom-of-speech zones and off-site marginalization (not to mention the complicity of the press in not covering protests) has got to stop. I wasn’t even going to use the Rose Bowl as a vehicle for self-expression (I was going, but only to take my folks, because parades are good ol’ family fun!) but now I am definitely going to bring a picket sign!
Update: Apparently there are LOTS of people talking about China and the Olympics, and the situation’s worse than I thought:
In December, Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to the Beijing Olympic committee calling for an end to mass arrests and increased speech restrictions. “Human rights violations have taken place even in direct relation to the organization of the games,” it reads, alleging that some 300,000 Beijing residents have been evicted from their homes during redevelopment efforts.