August 6, 2008

Dealing with Citizen Fascists

If an American sports reporter gets rattled when surrounded by shouting Chinese, imagine what it's like for the Tibetans. They have been occupied for decades, literally surrounded in their own country by people transported there specifically to evict them. Time to practice dharma and loving kindness.
Olympic Blog -- Aug. 6: Running into a pre-Olympic protest
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I got up early Wednesday morning to go for a bike ride in Beijing. It's been my routine since arriving here on Friday.
Right before I left my apartment, I saw an advisory from ABC News' Olympic mailing list saying there was some kind of incident going on near the Olympic Stadium.
I figured I'd ride by and see what I could find out. I grabbed my photo camera and Olympic media credential and rode about three minutes before arriving on the scene.
There was a man about 100 feet up a highway post, wearing climbing gear and a climbing helmet, holding a banner that read "Tibet Will Be Free." He also had a Tibetan flag hanging out of his backpack.
I dropped my bike and started taking pictures. After a few minutes, I wanted to try to talk to the man up on the post. So, I climbed up the hill to get a closer look. I yelled out, "Hey buddy, who are you?" The policemen turned and looked at me, but didn't react. But then, a man in civilian clothes (he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt) started screaming at me and tried to wave me away.
I held up my credential and yelled out, "TV! Media! Press!"
The man kept yelling, speaking mostly in Mandarin; but through some broken English, he pointed to the stadium, saying, "You're only here for [this]." He was implying that I was only here to cover the Games and this protest was none of my business. Then, he screamed, "Who are you? Who are you?" I kept trying to explain I was credentialed media.
Some of the policemen walked toward me and grabbed me by the arm. They were angry and aggressive while holding on to me, yelling in my face. But I still kept yelling, "TV! Media! Press! TV! Media! Press!" The policemen were speaking into their walkie-talkies, but I didn't understand what they were saying.
I then went back to the bottom of the hill and took more pictures. By that point, a fire truck pulled up and moved a cherry picker up the pole to try to bring down the protester. The same civilian came down the hill and started screaming at me again. Some of the onlookers joined in, and I was circled by people who started pushing and shoving me, screaming and pointing to the stadium. I never got hit or punched, but I was definitely physically accosted. I was trying to be smart about it and I wasn't hitting anyone, but I kept yelling, "Media! Press!"
Then, someone came up from behind me, someone I believe was an American. He was holding a camera and said, "Hey, buddy. This is going to get ugly; you should get out of here."
"Where are you from," he asked me.
I said, "I am from ESPN. Who are you with?"
I didn't see a credential on him, but he answered, "I am a freelancer ... just call me No-Neck."
I finally got on my bike and zoomed back to the apartment. I kept looking over my shoulder to see whether anyone was following me. But I didn't see anyone.
-- ESPN bureau producer Arty Berko

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