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Protesters Hold Human Rights Torch Relay

Former Olympic sprinter, John Carlos, center, carries the torch near the start of the San Francisco leg of the Human Rights Torch Relay, April 5, 2008 in San Francisco. In this city where protests are as much a part of the landscape as the Golden Gate Bridge, the impending arrival of the Olympic torch is drawing out thousands of activists critical of Beijing, even as many residents celebrate San Francisco's cultural ties to China.
AP Photo/George Nikitin
Demonstrators rallied in Union Square Saturday to protest alleged human rights abuses in China ahead of the Olympic torch's arrival in San Francisco.

More than 200 people took part in the "Human Rights Torch Relay," one of several protests planned before the Olympic torch makes its only North American appearance in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Saturday's protest was part of international campaign organized by members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement that is banned in China.

The Human Rights Torch Relay is designed to draw attention to China's alleged torture and imprisonment of religious and political dissidents. It has traveled through cities around the world since it was lit in Athens in August.

Among the torchbearers at Saturday's relay was John Carlos, the bronze medal-winning sprinter known for raising his fist as a symbol of black power at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

The Board of Supervisors recently passed a nonbinding resolution protesting China's human rights record and calling for an investigation into China's actions in Tibet and its treatment of dissidents.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has called the opportunity to host the Olympics torch an extraordinary honor, saying the flame is about sports, not politics.