On August 7, the eve of the beginning of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, hundreds of supporters of the movement to liberate Tibet from China’s authority gathered in Union Square to protest the games. A screen positioned above a group of monks, sitting in blood-red robes on the shallow steps of the park, displayed videos of beatings, fires and protest demonstrations in Tibet.
Over the normal din of 14th Street shoppers and the skateboarders always trying stunts in the park, a deep-throated chant from protesters would rise and fall. Passersby tried to peek over the shoulders of those standing in protest to get a glimpse of the monks, the arrangement of hundreds of votive candles and the video screen.
Many protesters sat on the park plaza and read papers or shared food. Parents came with children. Those interested in joining for the first time were welcomed and given flags and t-shirts featuring a clutched fist and the word “RANGZEN“, which translates to mean “independence.”
After several slow and patient chants, the crowd let out one large shout, then rolled up flags, gathered their belongings and headed for the nearest subways. They will continue to protest every night until the end of the games, according to one organizer who spoke with a reporter from WNYC Radio.