SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Three pro-Tibet activists scaled the vertical cables of San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge and hung banners on Monday to protest the arrival of the Olympic torch in the city on Wednesday.
“This is a nonviolent global protest,” one of the three protesters, Laurel Sutherlin, 31, told KCBS radio by cell phone while suspended from the bridge.
“Unfortunately, in a non violent movement this is the only way we can get the word out.”
Wearing helmets and safety gloves, Sutherlin and two other experienced climbers hung the banners between three parallel red cables after a careful ascent on a sunny, cloudless day.
They remained on the cables for more than three hours before bridge workers cut the banners and they came down. Authorities quickly arrested Sutherlin and the other two climbers, Duane Martinez and Hannah Strange.
Mary Ziegenbein, an officer with the California Highway Patrol, said they and four others who assisted the climbers from the bridge would be charged with felony conspiracy.
“One World, One Dream: Free Tibet,” read one of two banners, protesting China’s recent crackdown on Tibet. A second sign read “Free Tibet 08.” Several smaller Tibetan flags fluttered in the wind.
“They are doing it at all the landmarks in the cities that are hosting the Olympic torch,” said Tenzing Dasang, a member of Students for a Free Tibet, an activist group leading the action.
Traffic slowed as locals and tourists sought to catch a glimpse of the unusual activity.
“They went up pretty quick,” said Herb Zacks, a 36-year-old cabinetmaker who was driving into San Francisco on the bridge when the three started the climb. “They must have got up in about 20 minutes.”
“I think this is just a preview. I think there will be a lot more than this city is prepared for.”
San Francisco, where nearly a third of the population is of Asian origin, is the only U.S. city to host the Olympic torch this year and is expected to experience a wave of protests in the coming days.
The liberal city has a long tradition of demonstrations, but demonstrators scaling the landmark bridge connecting San Francisco with Marin County is quite rare, officials said.
Earlier in Paris, Chinese officials called off a chaotic relay of the torch after thousands of pro-Tibet protesters tried to block its path and the flame had to be extinguished at least twice.
According to the Web site of the group Students for a Free Tibet, other protesters hung a large banner with the same message off London’s Westminster Bridge over the weekend before the Olympic torch run there.
(Writing by Adam Tanner; editing by Todd Eastham)
For facts about the Olympic torch relay, see