Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cincinnatians Rally in Support of Iranian Protesters

Yesterday about 100 Iranian-Americans, Cincinnati community members, and residents of the Greater Tri-State area gathered on Fountain Square for a rally in support of and in solidarity with the citizens of Iran who have been voicing their opposition to the recent election results.

Demonstrators began arriving on the Square a few minutes before 4 P.M., mainly wearing black to mourn those who have been killed during the Iranian Government's crackdown on peaceful dissent. The rally was largely organized by Iranian-Americans Ghoncheh Boroujerdi, Ahoo Tabatabai, Golnaz Shafeei, and Nazanin Tork on Facebook and the stated mission was listed as follows:

Join us, all Iranians and Non-Iranians, in expressing solidarity with the freedom-seeking protesters in Iran. Many of our own friends and relatives are bravely marching on the streets, and we feel a duty to support them by keeping up the momentum and continuing to raise awareness of these important events in Iran.

Here is some audio and some images from the beginning of the rally:

As the rally progressed, people marched on the square carrying signs, chanting slogans, and mourning the loss of all of those who have been killed in Iran since the crackdown. There were many images of Neda, whose violent death was captured on video and broadcast to the entire world as well as images of others who have lost their lives in the clashes with Iranian authorities. At one point flowers were collected on a make-shift shrine made out of a folding chair in front of a poster of images of those who have died.

As the people continued to step forward to the bullhorn to speak and offer words of solidarity in both English and Farsi, attention was drawn to a sign carried by one of those attending the rally. The sign read, "U.S. Out of the Middle East". A handful of demonstrators began to shout at the organizers and at the man holding the sign saying that this was not the message that they wanted to express. "I am not hear for the Middle East," one man shouted, "I am here only for the people of Iran!" "Who installed the Shah?" shot back another demonstrator, "If you want to hold a rally for him, go across the street!" This smaller group became more and more vocal and even tried to use other signs to block the sign in question. Organizers quickly took to the bullhorn to try and keep the peace and announce that everyone was expressing the same solidarity in different ways, but those who objected to the sign continued to shout over the organizers and start chants of their own.

The confrontation reached its climax when one demonstrator walked over to the man holding the sign and forcefully ripped it from his hands. The ripped sign was thrown to the ground as police approached and organizers took to the bullhorn to regain control by asserting that this rally was organized as a peaceful event. Audio of the confrontation can be heard below, the main female voice is that of organizer Nazanin Tork. The climax of the argument happens at around 2:23 in the video:

After control was regained by the organizers of the event, the rally continued and ended peacefully without incident with chants of "Don't be afraid, we are all in this together" and "Fake Republic, sham election, this became our call to action".

After the event was over I was able to ask one of the organizers, Nazanin Tork, a few questions about the goals of the rally as well as the confrontation (Note: images in this video are not from the Cincinnati rally):

This piece is crossposted here.

1 comment:

House said...

Chris - thanks for the excellent report!

I went to support the demonstrators in Iran, but I left because I didn't wish to be associated with the U.S. OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST protester.

Before I left I asked the guy, is this about Iran or the U.S.?

He said "both," but the rally promotion clearly stated:

"Attendees can print any message on their signs that they wish, as long as they are related to the topics of Iranian freedom movement, democracy, solidarity or human rights."