(9 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)
From The Press Association:
Protesters have forced police to extinguish the Olympic torch amid heavy demonstrations as it set off across Paris.
Officers in jogging gear who had been escorting the flame put it out and took it on a bus, apparently to get it away from the protesters.
The flame, which started out at the Eiffel Tower amid tight security, was being carried down a road next to the Seine near demonstrators carrying Tibetan flags when the relay was stopped.
Sky News has footage of the security guarding the torch, including the police on rollerblades:
There are official outlets in France who are dubious, at best, about the sybolism of the Olympic torch today:
“The flame of discord” was how two national French newspapers described it in their front-page headlines, while the front of the left-leaning Liberation daily was covered with a picture of the Olympic rings turned into handcuffs.
Paris City Hall, which is on the route, has hung a banner saying “Paris Defends Human Rights Throughout the World.” Only a handful of demonstrators gathered near the foot of the Eiffel Tower for the start of the relay.
The BBC has more footage of the protests:
It is being widely reported that the Paris-based group, Reporters Without Borders, has promised a day of “spectacular” protests.
Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.
UPDATE: It appears the protests are working, as IOC President Jacques Rogge has made his strongest statement yet regarding the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Tibet:
Jacques Rogge’s statement – his strongest to date – comes in the wake of repeated attempts to disrupt the Olympic torch relay. Police in London arrested 37 people for public order offenses as the flame passed through the city yesterday and protesters have already gathered along the route through Paris today.
“I’m very concerned with the international situation and what’s happening in Tibet,” he told today’s meeting.
“The torch relay has been targeted. The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet,” he said.
He said that violence “for whatever reason” was “not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games”, adding: “We need the unity of the Olympic movement to help us overcome the difficulties. Our major responsibility is for offering good games to the athletes who deserve them.”
UPDATE (2): It is now being reported that the torch has been extinguished on three separate occasions in Paris:
Despite beefed-up security, anti-China protests have forced officials to stop the Olympic relay in Paris for a third time, extinguish the flame and put the torch aboard a bus.
The latest suspension came after police spotted a crowd of demonstrators on a bridge they were approaching, the Associated Press reported.
The relay, which resumed shortly after each of the two interruptions, began from the Eiffel Tower, where several hundred people carrying Tibetan flags and signs reading “Save Tibet” gathered to demonstrate.
The torch seems to be heading through Paris in fits and starts, which may make this a very long day for French police attempting to escort it through the streets, “…akin to what would be given to a high-profile head of state”. Stay tuned.
UPDATE (3): Reuters is now reporting that the torch relay has been called off in Paris:
PARIS (Reuters) – Chinese officials called off a chaotic relay of the Olympic torch through Paris on Monday after thousands of pro-Tibet protesters tried to block its path and the flame had to be extinguished at least twice.
Police said the Chinese authorities organising the five-hour passage of the torch had decided to give up the road relay after demonstrators protesting against China’s crackdown on Tibet constantly snarled its progress and forced lengthy delays.
Separately, Chinese officials also cancelled a reception at Paris city hall:
Mayor Bernard Delanoe told reporters the Chinese had cancelled a planned reception for the torch at Paris city hall at the last minute after a banner supporting human rights was hung from the facade of the building.
“The Chinese officials decided they would not stop here because they were put out by Parisian citizens expressing their support for human rights. It is their responsibility,” he said.
Next stop, San Francisco.