Climbers scale Golden Gate Bridge to protest Olympic torch run

Three pro-Tibet protesters climbed the suspension cables of the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday to protest the coming arrival of the Beijing Olympics torch relay in San Francisco.

Three pro-Tibet protesters climbed the suspension cables of the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday to protest the coming arrival of the Beijing Olympics torch relay in San Francisco.

Three people protesting China's human rights record and the impending arrival of the Olympic torch climbed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Monday and tied Tibetan flags and two banners to its cables. ((Paul Sakuma/Associated Press))

The protesters, tethered together on suspension cables halfway up the bridge, unfurled two giant banners reading "One World, One Dream" and "Free Tibet 'O8" — a play on the official slogan of the Beijing Games. One of the climbers also displayed a Tibetan flag.

The climbers spent about three hours suspended more than 25 metres above traffic before descending around 1:15 p.m. PT to be taken into police custody, the CBC's Chris Brown reported from the city.

The climbers are all American citizens and supporters of Students for a Free Tibet, said Tsering Lama, a spokeswoman for the activist group. 

Four other members, including a Canadian student who attends the University of British Columbia, were arrested at the site, Lama told CBC News.

All seven face charges related to trespassing, conspiracy and causing a public nuisance, CNN reported.

The torch is due to arrive Wednesday in San Francisco, its only North American stop on a tour that has been marked by protests against China's policies toward Tibet and Sudan.

The highly visible protest has forced San Francisco officials to make some changes to the torch procession, and police said they were taking "extraordinary precautions," Brown said.

"All in all, it's going to be a very sizable police presence," he said.

The opposition to the Chinese government is well organized, Brown said, adding there will be marches and protests during the week, including another torch run called Tibet Freedom Torch.

Many people in San Francisco's Chinese community are furious and some business groups have organized their own pro-China rallies, Brown said.

Last leg of Olympic torch run cancelled in Paris

Meanwhile Monday, the last segment of the Olympic torch run through Paris was cancelled after thousands of anti-China protesters repeatedly prompted officials to stop the procession, extinguish the flame and put the torch aboard a bus.

Despite beefed-up security, the relay had to be suspended at least five times as demonstrators threatened the torch. A vehicle carried the Olympic flame for the last part of the route but a runner was allowed to carry the torch for the final five metres into a sports stadium in the south of Paris.

At least 28 people were arrested during the relay as thousands of people, including demonstrators, lined the torch's route through the city streets.

Police officers apprehend a demonstrator waving a Tibetan flag as he tried to interrupt the Olympic torch relay shortly after it began near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Monday. ((Thibault Camus/Associated Press))

The relay encountered problems at the start from the Eiffel Tower, where several hundred people carrying Tibetan flags and signs reading "Save Tibet" gathered to demonstrate.

As 1997 400-metre world champion Stéphane Diagana began the run, a man identified as a Green party activist headed for the torch shouting "Freedom for the Chinese" and was tackled by security officers.

Later, after police threw some protesters to the ground and carried others away, the torch was extinguished and placed on a bus.

The relay continued but the flame was snuffed out and the torch was put on a bus a second time less than an hour later, when protesters booed and chanted "Tibet" as an athlete in a wheelchair emerged from a tunnel with the torch.

The relay later resumed but was stopped again.

The third time, security officials apparently interrupted the procession because they spotted demonstrators ahead. It started and stopped again after a protester approached it with a fire extinguisher near the Louvre art museum. Police grabbed the demonstrator before he could start to spray.

The relay was suspended for a fifth time after protesters had gathered outside the National Assembly.

About 3,000 French police were part of a security effort to protect the procession route through the city streets Monday.

Police barricaded the streets and traffic was shut off from areas along the route of the torch relay.

The security detail included about 200 police officers who were to accompany the torch run on inline skates and on foot.

As well, 65 motorcycles with police riders were assigned to surround the torch with 200 to 300 riot police officers in 32 vans following. Three boats were patrolling the Seine River, and a helicopter was overhead, police said.

80 athletes were to carry torch

CBC's David Common said the security was akin to what would be given to a high-profile head of state.

Common said it would have been nearly impossible to actually see the flame because of the security.

About 80 athletes were to carry the torch over a 27-kilometre route heading down the Champs Elysée past city hall, then crossing the Seine before ending at the Charlety track and field stadium.

The heavy security was designed to avoid confrontations like those in London on Sunday. Police repeatedly scuffled with protesters, including one who tried to grab the torch, while another tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher. Thirty-seven people were arrested.

Meanwhile, in Beijing on Monday, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said he was "very concerned" about unrest in Tibet.

"The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet," Rogge said. Violent protests, "for whatever reason," are "not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games," he added.

With files from the Associated Press