The protesters were calling attention to the Chinese government's human rights violations.
I always think it is amazing when a symbol, in this case the Olympic torch, is so powerful that it is protected as though it were human. While I understand the measures taken by the police were likely for the safety of those involved in the torch relay, I think it is amazing that so much manpower is put into protecting the flame. In fact, a triple-layer security bubble will now be protecting the French leg of the relay. The following is from CNN.com:
"Paris police have conceived a security plan to keep the torch in a safe "bubble," during its 17-mile (28 km) journey, with a multi-layered protective force to surround the torch as it moves along the route.
French torchbearers will be encircled by several hundred officers, some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on rollerblades and on foot. Chinese torch escorts will immediately surround the torchbearer, with Paris police on rollerblades moving around them. French firefighters in jogging shoes will encircle the officers on rollerblades while motorcycle police will form the outer layer of security."
It is interesting to think about how important symbols are so much more than just objects. It seems foolish to put so much pride, hope and meaning into a corporeal object. But then again, we wouldn't have art, music or poetry without symbols.