Free Tibet protesters hit the streets on bikes

Friday, May 2, 2008 | 8:17 p.m. CDT; updated 8:39 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Critical Mass for Free Tibet riders leave from the Ragtag Cinema on Hitt Street and head toward Broadway.

COLUMBIA — A sign reading “Free Tibet” bobbed up and down from the basket of Sri Shrestha’s bicycle as she rode down Broadway on Friday evening. Behind her, about 30 other bicycles filled the street as they shouted the slogan, “One world, one voice, free Tibet.”

The combination of bicyclist and protester merged in an event called Critical Mass for Free Tibet.


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The point of Critical Mass was to get a large amount of bicyclists, or a “critical mass” of bikes, on the road in one general area to draw attention, often stopping traffic or disrupting traffic flow. Organizers said their intentions were not to annoy motorists but to gain attention with slogans and chanting.

People eating dinner inside the Ragtag forgot about their food and stared at over two dozen bicyclists wearing “monk maroon” converging outside the restaurant. Games at Stankowski Field paused as the sound of chanting bicyclists surrounded them.

And even pedestrians who came across the bike ride were curious about the protest. One pedestrian giggled and said, “Where’s Tibet?” as the ride passed her. Bicyclists were hoping to challenge what they saw as a general lack of awareness about the Tibet/China conflict through their ride.

The Free Tibet movement is not new. Protesters argue that, in 1951, Chinese forces invaded Tibet and have been controlling the area ever since. The Free Tibet movement, which seeks to gain Tibetan autonomy from China, has received increased attention with the 2008 Olympics being held in Beijing.

The Critical Mass for Free Tibet event was organized to recognize local support for the cause.

“It can show that even in places like the middle of the Midwest, people are compassionate for the people in Tibet,” said Shrestha, who thought of and organized the event.

Shrestha was born in Nepal after her mother, a Tibetan, sought refuge there. She said the issue is much harder to discuss in places like Nepal, where it was even considered taboo for her father to marry a Tibetan woman.

In lieu of traditional protesting, Shrestha, 23, said a bicycle ride has the effect of being a positive, healthy form of protest. The goal was to connect people in Columbia who share a common interest in the movement and be a meeting point for individuals interested in starting a Students for Free Tibet group, which has faded in recent years.

“A Critical Mass event is an encouraging sign of a town where people are politically involved and active in the community,” said Richard Schulte, 22, a member of the Students for Progressive Action. “It’s important to just talk about what is going on in Tibet and what has been going on there.”

Dave Engelkenjohn, 21, wearing a T-shirt with the words “Speak out daily” on it, said that people are afraid to raise awareness of this issue. Engelkenjohn’s mother visited Tibet four years ago, and since then, he has participated in Free Tibet rallies and protests.

“People are afraid to talk out about it. They think we live in a democracy because they go and vote, but it’s about talking out everyday, being progressive,” Engelkenjohn said.

Not everyone who saw the Free Tibet bicyclists agreed with the movement, however.

As the ride crested the intersection of Ninth Street and Broadway, two Chinese MU grad students said they disagreed with the protest.

“Most of the people who say ‘Free Tibet,’ they have never been there,” Siwei Cheng, 27, said. “The Olympics should be a good chance to communicate, not fight with each other.”

Min Li, 27, also disagreed with the bicyclists’ message. She said the attention given to Tibet has been unfair and one-sided. She said most Americans do not know enough of the history of China and Tibet to protest.

Shrestha said this event was not meant to make up anyone’s mind about Tibet or China.

“It’s such a politically charged conflict. I want to let people know that it is a conflict and give them the resources to learn about it themselves and decide for themselves,” Shrestha said. “I want to set the framework so people who support the cause have the opportunity to.”

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Richard Saunders January 20, 2012 | 10:50 a.m.

Is it legal to honk at these people when they're intentionally disrupting traffic as a political stunt? Or does their protected status as an endangered group preclude them from being bound to civil behavior as they do not have to face any consequences for their actions?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield January 20, 2012 | 11:39 a.m.

Truly celebrating diversity means not intervening in other countries' affairs.

(Report Comment)
Greg Butz June 10, 2012 | 4:33 p.m.

I'm slightly confused. What was this? The articles states it was ... a publicity stunt to draw attention, ... to show that people in Mid-MO are compassionate, ... a positive, healthy protest, ...a meeting point for individuals interested in starting a Students for Free Tibet group, educate people about the conflict between the people of Tibet and China (exactly how do you do that from a bicycle?)

Yet another example of nice, well-meaning people doing something whose only real effect is to make themselves feel better about themselves. Raise your hand if you think the Chinese government will even hear of this -publicity stunt/protest/educational event? Yeah, right. If they've been in Tibet in 1951, I doubt 30 bicyclists will convince them that they been in the wrong the last 61 years.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 10, 2012 | 10:21 p.m.

This article is from 2008. Hateful comments, 4 years later, only exposes a severe lack of attention to detail. How did Richard even find this article to make the first comment? Did the Missourian accidentally put it up on the front page for a few minutes or something?

Richard: The "no honk" ordinance wasn't even on the radar yet when this event took place. The ordinance was introduced a year later - 2009.

Jimmy: Glad to see you're speaking out against all the military "nation building" we're doing. A huge chunk of our military budget (which you've stated in the past is vital to US economic health) goes precisely to "...intervening in other countries' affairs." Must be a bummer to both support, and despise, essentially the same thing.

Gary: You're more than "slightly" confused. You even did the math to prove you didn't pay attention to the publish date of the article. And, another 5 months later, at that. How did *you* find this article?!?

The rest: there's a reason you should discount these people's ideas and opinions. If they don't notice something as obvious as a publish date on an article, there's probably an enormous amount of other information and details they don't get, too.

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum June 10, 2012 | 11:35 p.m.

Freedom Ride '08 -- RESURRECTED.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 11, 2012 | 12:22 p.m.

Derrick Fogle wrote:

"Did the Missourian accidentally put it up on the front page for a few minutes or something?"

I've seen that story pop up in the "Most Read" column for years now. Maybe it comes up on Google searches for things like "Free Tibet" or something, and gets read a few times.

I don't really know anything about it, but I suspect there is little anyone outside of China can practically do about it.


(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 11, 2012 | 12:54 p.m.

Freedom Ride 08 Has Risen! All Hail Freedom Ride 08! It is now time to start spreading the Gospel...

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders June 11, 2012 | 1:18 p.m.

Good thing this article is back on the front page. Otherwise I wouldn't have seen Derrick's insult claiming my view of law and order is "hateful."

Personally, I find the hate-filled comments to be those who mischaracterize the comments of others in order to appear holier-than-thou, thus scoring "white knight" debate points from others equally as clueless.

Simply put, I say plenty around here that provides the opportunity for rebuttal. There really isn't a need to invent things, or worse yet, engage in ad hominem attacks on my character.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 11, 2012 | 1:55 p.m.

In Tibet, there are many who believe that cows are sacred.
In Columbia, it's bicyclists.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor June 11, 2012 | 3:47 p.m.

eat mor chikin & less rice ?

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 11, 2012 | 7:13 p.m.

Yes, the resurrection of this article proves that bicyclists are sacred, and you may not enter the kingdom of heaven unless you ride a bicycle. This is the Gospel of Freedom Ride 08.

@Richard: OK, "Hateful" might be a bit strong in your case, but your post was unmistakably snarky and clearly shows a negative attitude towards cyclists. Whether or not you will admit that, the rest of the readers will decide for themselves.

ProTip: Read the article, including the publish date, before posting.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 11, 2012 | 7:16 p.m.

Editors: Could you please check and confirm Mark's suspicion of why this article keeps showing up in "Most Read"?

(Report Comment)
Frank Michael Russell June 11, 2012 | 9:05 p.m.


As with many articles on the Missourian website, about half of the readership for this story in the past few days has come from Google. We are able to use Google Analytics to track the search terms that bring readers to articles. In this case, "Free Tibet" does not show up on that list, so the interest in this story is something of a mystery.

Much of the remaining readership is coming directly from our home page. Of course, you and the other commenters on this article are contributing significantly to that.

Frank Russell
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble June 11, 2012 | 9:09 p.m.

@Greg Butz: "Yet another example of nice, well-meaning people doing something whose only real effect is to make themselves feel better about themselves."

Well, you have the latter part down at least.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 11, 2012 | 9:55 p.m.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do feel good about myself. I'm awesome!

Sorry if I'm a jerk on the boards sometimes (I do basically agree with your criticism); it's just cheap entertainment to me. I'll point out that pretty much everyone does it - the first 3 posts and your post included - but that's not a valid reason for me to do it, too.

I do it because I choose to do it for myself. How and when I engage on these boards is my choice, until the Missourian staff shuts me down. The rest of the readers will form their own opinions. That's OK with me.

Now, I'm going to give myself a 1-week suspension from posting for being such a butthole. I'll be busy spreading the holy gospel of FREEDOM RIDE 08!

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders June 13, 2012 | 2:23 p.m.

Derrick, I have a negative attitude toward people who choose to disrupt traffic so that they can "raise awareness of [insert issue du jour here]." I also have a negative attitude toward those who demand control of the gun (in the form of regulations) to militantly impose their will upon others. Bicyclists who ride responsibly, I have absolutely no problem with.

Regardless of flavor, politics is evil. I choose to live my life without resorting to violence to control others. I only desire the rest do the same. For some reason though, too many are fascinated by the power in gun, falsely believing it is a beneficial way for society to be governed. So, instead of being good neighbors, doing their best to get along with each other, they turn to thugism, as the political process of delegating personal responsibility is far easier than having live in a world of diversity.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 13, 2012 | 3:15 p.m.

I love me.
I think I'm grand.
When I am with me,
I kiss my hand.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 26, 2012 | 4:58 p.m.

See, that was easy. I even threw in an extra week+, just for good measure.

Now, how many of you have posted mean comments about others here in the last two weeks? How many even recognize it? And, how many of you have actually apologized for it?

I've spent a lot of time over the last 2 weeks thinking about my interactions on this discussion forum. No, I'm not leaving, and yes, I'm going to be extremely abrasive sometimes. No matter how pissed Rich & crew are, or have a right to be, at me, I believe I taught them something.

Is this not a core tenet of conservatism? That, when someone makes a mistake, they should not be coddled or consoled, but instead be rightfully called out for it, and punished for it? If not, I need a lot of concrete examples to the contrary to prove my assertion (based on lots of observation) false.

In the meantime, I've proven that I am capable of: recognizing my own poor behavior; being able to apologize for it; and the ability to self-regulate.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 18, 2012 | 6:58 a.m.

And it pops up again...


(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders August 18, 2012 | 1:45 p.m.

The gift that just keeps on giving!

At this point I have to wonder if there aren't some activists fingering the google. NTTAWWT

(Report Comment)

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