The event, organized by five community and advocacy groups, began at the Chinese consulate on 12th Avenue by the Hudson River. The protesters then marched to Times Square and formed a human chain that started at the corner of Broadway and 42nd St.
"We just wanted to send a message out to the world that, although the Olympics may be ending this week, the Tibetan struggle is not ending," said Tengin Carlo, 28, a member of the Tibetan Women's Association, a local community group that helped organize the march. "We're still going to fight for the people of Tibet."
Sean Su, one of the day's speakers, a Taiwanese member of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, estimated that over 3,000 people turned out for the day's events. Police officers in Times Square declined to offer an estimate. The number of protesters at the bustling street corner, who sat inside a rectangular metal barricade that stretched for two blocks, appeared to be in the hundreds.
Most of the demonstrators wore black t-shirts that read, "CHINA STOP THE TIBET GENOCIDE." Demonstrators said that China has been committing "cultural genocide," dominating the land of Tibet, brutalizing its people, and destroying its culture and traditions.
"It's like being in someone else's country," he said. "If you go anywhere, you see Chinese."
For her part, Carlo, the member of the Tibetan Women's Association, who was born in Nepal, has never visited her parents' home country. She said that many people of Tibetan descent and of her age were born elsewhere, because their parents had escaped after the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1951.
Carlo said that obtaining a visa to Tibet is difficult, especially since the Chinese government will regularly "check on" members of Tibetan organizations outside China.
Tibet has experienced an intense crackdown during the Olympics, organizers said, estimating that over 140 Tibetans have been killed, and 500 injured, since the beginning of the games.
The Chinese government has also detained meddling visitors from abroad. Last Tuesday, five American members of Students for a Free Tibet, an international advocacy group that helped organize today's human chain, were arrested in Beijing for displaying a banner next to the Beijing National Stadium that read "free Tibet." That same day, Beijing police arrested James Powderly, a New York City-based graffiti artist, for projecting the message "Free Tibet" on buildings using a specially-designed green laser.
In Times Square, the only disruption or counter-demonstration was a burly, blustering Caucasian man carrying a stack of China Daily newspapers, who intermittently showed up to bark at the crowd, accusing "Taiwan" of being a "tool of the CIA."
At one point, he yelled, "CIA tools! CIA tools, that's all you are!"
When the speeches came to an end, the activists sang the Tibetan national anthem for seven dramatic minutes. All the while, kitty-corner to them, the latest Olympic scores flashed across the Dow Jones ticker.
Once the Olympics come to an end, according to Nick Dulotta, 20, a member of Students for a Free Tibet, community and advocacy groups in New York plan to escalate pro-Tibet activities. He added that the most important day will be March 10, 2009, the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, when a mass anti-occupation revolt spread across the region.
"I think that we'll see even more dedication, more increased action, more support from around the world," he said. "Now is the time."