Olympic Torch-er

I am confused by recent events surrounding the running of the Olympic Torch through major cities around the globe. As the reader no doubt has read, the Olympic Flame’s “torch relay” has been the target of protests against the Chinese treatment of Tibet. The Guardian reports that, as the torch made its way through London, it was “buffeted and barged by clashes between pro-Tibetan demonstrators and Chinese students, and its passage interrupted by several direct incursions from protesters.” According to ABC News, protests have been so severe that in Paris, police surrendered to protesters

In Paris, Monday, dozens of protesters jostled with police so persistently that officials were forced several times to make an unprecedented decision to extinguish the flame and halt the procession.

According to CNN, protesters “pierced the thick security bubble surrounding the torchbearers, at times getting their hands on the torch itself.”  Of course, CNN makes no mention of what impact this had on the torchbearer.

Here’s my confusion. In an effort to protest mistreatment of Tibetans by the Chinese government, protesters are reported to have attacked “the torch.” Note to words from the Guardian, “it was buffeted.” Only later in the article do they mention that the torch’s handlers, the runners, had to be protected “behind a phalanx of police and Chinese security guards provided by Beijing.”

Generally, the discussion, and the protests, seem to forget that the “torch” was carried by people. These people, while at times Chinese, were simply carrying a torch that has been a time-honored Olympic symbol since Adolph Hitler’s Germany started the tradition in 1936.

Is it right to protest the mistreatment of Tibetans at the hands of the oppressive communist Chinese government, by attacking runners simply wanting to be part of a 72 year old tradition?