Olympic Torch Protests May Threaten U.S. Relay

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"We can be effective without [disruption]," said Allyn Brooks-LaSure, a spokesman for Save Darfur. "Disrupting tomorrow's ceremonies couldn't possibly embarrass Beijing any more than their disastrous Darfur policy already has."

Prepared for the Worst

Still, law enforcement agencies prepared for the worst. Mayor Gavin Newsom said there was a strong likelihood that the relay's route would be changed, but the ultimate decision would be made by Police Chief Heather Fong.

The Fire Department will have ambulances along the torch's route, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department will have 50 or more extra deputies on patrol, and vans will be available to haul away arrested protesters.

"We are trying to accomplish two goals here. One is to protect the right to free speech and the other is to ensure public safety, and here in San Francisco we are good at both of those things," said Newsom spokesperson Nathan Ballard.

The FAA has restricted flights over the city to media helicopters, medical emergency carriers, and law enforcement helicopters and airplanes, such as those the California Highway Patrol will use to monitor the torch's route.

The CHP has also increased the number of officers on the ground, to guarantee the flow of traffic, protect the bridges, that connect the San Francisco Bay Area and provide immediate help to police.

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China May 4. The Olympics begin on August 8.

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Associated Press writers John Marshall, Amanda Fehd and Stephen Wilson contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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