Iranians and Iranian-Americans carrying different and opposing flags and banners at Westlake came together tonight to protest against the stolen election and for human rights in Iran.
First, I just noticed a few Americans from different sides putting their spin on things. We had the Socialists there (as usual) and one guy who seemed to be anti-Obama, anti-UN. Definitely not people you often see on the same side of a protest, even if for a short time.
It soon became apparent the Iranians had their own factions, and some of them were having a very heated debate, although fortunately the rally leaders were able to come up with chants to unite both sides. At first I didn’t understand the issue about the flags, which was the one part of the debate in English. One of the leaders repeatedly asked people to put down the flags and unite. I thought maybe it had to do with some post 9/11 fears or fears of stirring anti-immigrant sentiments with the Iranian flags (even though their were some American ones). The kind of policy debate organizers often have within the group, though it seemed odd that would become such a major issue during the rally itself.
Then I was thinking maybe it was people for different candidates in the Iranian elections. As most of the arguing was in Persian, it was hard to know what was going on.
It wasn’t until Don from our Amnesty International group suggested some of the people were supporters of the Shah that it dawned on me, but even then slowly. I was in denial that I could be protesting with people who supported the (evil, to me) Shah, who was torturing people in Iran before he was forced to flee the country (only to be replaced by Ayatollah Khomenei, who tortured people). Then I started recognizing the regal symbol on many of the flags (then a few with a different symbols on them) and realized Don was right.
I then started realizing the significance of the banners reading, “No Monarchy. No Theocracy. Only Democracy.” My sentiments as well. Note: I’m not officially wearing my Amnesty hat at the moment, although I was literally wearing one for the rally.
I got to give the organizers credit for keeping it all together, and finding chants and songs to unite everyone, and even getting everyone together for a march around the block of the Westlake Center mall and back to the square.
Meanwhile, in Iran, the New York Times reports that thousands of people are out in the streets again.
Thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran on Thursday, clapping, chanting, almost mocking the authorities as they once again turned out in large numbers in defiance of the government’s threat to crush their protests with violence.
As tear gas canisters cracked and hissed in the middle of crowds, and baton-wielding police officers chased protesters up and down sidewalks, young people, some bloodied, ran for cover, but there was an almost festive feeling on the streets of Tehran, witnesses reported in e-mail exchanges.
A young woman, her clothing covered in blood, ran up Kargar Street, paused for a moment and said, “I am not scared, because we are in this together.”
Which is encouraging, people are coming together and marching for justice in spite of massive repression.