By Kayvan Bozorgmehr, Rooz Online
The day when news on Iran was expected to be led by stories about people's protest demonstrations to commemorate the rigged 2009 presidential election began with the unexpected death of Hoda Saber in Evin prison, giving supporters of the Green Movement another reason to gather a peaceful march.
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People came. Until three pm, Tehran appeared normal; no agents in the streets and no unusual activities. But it was clear from a few weeks earlier that events were bound to take place and both sides were preparing for a confrontation. So, about two and a half hours before the official start of the silent demonstration on May 12th, the face of the longest street in Tehran, began to gradually change on the Vali Asr square to Vanak square stretch. As a number of trucks clearly displaying telecommunications gear took position, it appeared that City Theater was going to be the center of the government's street command center for the day.
By 5 pm, security and law enforcement forces had taken up positions in large numbers in a number of specific spots between Vali Asr square and Vanak square. These included Vali Asr square, Vali Asr's intersection with Dr. Fatemi Avenue, intersections of Motahari and Beheshti avenues, Saii Park and Vanak Square itself.
Among these officers, one could also recognize members of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Traffic on the stretch seemed much more active than normal. Buses too seemed more crowded. New buses had been added to facilitate the flow of people, as confirmed by bus riders to Rooz who said the authorities preferred this as it would make less people occupy the streets.
By 6 pm, the Vali Asr square was completely under the control of the police. Its western flank was under the control of the police while the eastern side was packed with plain-clothes agents. Most of the latter covered their faces, but they carried batons and engaged in directing the flow of people in the square. At this time, one young woman was seen to be detained by plain-clothes agents. One item that seemed different from earlier gatherings was that the plain-clothes agents did not wear the military boots they wore earlier. This time they wore multi-colored sneakers and other plain sporty shoes.
By 6:30 pm, bus traffic came to a standstill in the special bus lanes of at the Motahari intersection of Vali Asr square. Shortly then, it became clear why: motorbiked plain clothes agents arrived in swarms in the bus lane. They came down (driving southwards) so fast that some clashed with other bikes. As soon as they arrived at the square, they rode between cars and the traffic, disrupting the normal pattern and flow and terrorizing the pedestrians and walkers. But rather than riding towards Vali Asr square further south, they then turned around and returned to the square, a maneuver they repeated numerous times till 9pm.
As the bus gridlock began to unlock, new buses arrived, but these were the police buses filled with their baton-wearing men who continued until Vali Asr square. By this time it was said that clashes had already taken place at that square so the police were on their way to support and intervene.
At the Hemmat intersection with Vali Asr, agents wore bulletproof gear and the markings on their shirts displayed their identify: Shahid Mofateh Basij Resistance Base, Imam Ali Brigade.
Minutes after 7 pm, this group joined the police at Vanak square who by this time had completely surrounded the square. Some of them were positioned in the center of the square as well and they included plain clothes agents, the police, IRGC and black-clad men.
The first clash that took place as reported by Rooz took place at Vanak square as silent demonstrators marched around the square. Without any warning, the government forces attacked the demonstrators turning the place into a battlefield. Attacking motorbikers rode onto the sidewalks attacking the marchers. These clashes continued for about 5 minutes and some arrests were made.
Twenty minutes later, as people were marching on the sidewalk across Saii Park, about 20 to 30 people were gathering as government agents attacked them trying to prevent the gathering. Motorbike agents were busy on the streets too, riding against the traffic. Two individuals were seen to be detained by the police. A Rooz reporter saw two individuals being taken to a nearby alley across the park and were beaten up by the uniformed agents.
By this time the stretch from Beheshti to Motahari had been completely blocked and traffic was at a standstill. Chants and cries filled the air completely. A group of motorbike riding agents wore "Ya Zahra" and "Ya Hossein" headbands and held yellow flags with "Ya Abolfazl al-Abbas" writings on them.
Soon after 7pm, shops between Vali Asr square and Beheshti Avenue began to pull down their shutters and close their doors to the public. These shops normally remain open till 11pm or even midnight. As darkness came, clashes between people and government agents intensified, and they were seen at other intersections and stretches of Vali Asr avenue. Yet people continued to march as agents who either watched or attacked, could also be heard laughing loudly. All shops up to about three hundred meters on either side of Keshavarz Boulevard's intersection with Vali Asr were closed.
Around 8pm, at the stretch between Taleghani and Vali Asr square, tear gas was used even though there did not seem to be a large crowd there, or any cries or commotion.
It was almost impossible to just stand anywhere on the long stretch of Vali Asr and agents grouped in 5s and 6s watchfully made sure people moved on, stopping and questioning some.
Shops remained closed till about 9pm, but some did reopen after that. Bus stops began to fill up with people as police buses were filling up too and going south on Vali Asr avenue. But not every bus would stop at the bus stop, perhaps only one of four would. At about this time, south of Zartosht Avenue, a sudden group cry of Ya Hossein, Mir-Hossein was heard from inside a bus, a tribute to the Green Movement leader and 2009 presidential candidate who has been under house arrest since February of 2011. As the bus crossed another bus, the other bus joined in. Soon after this, the first bus was stopped, agents poured in, clashes erupted, and some people were dragged out by government agents amid protesting cries of the public.
Soon after 9pm, government agents began to thin out and leave the streets and squares. City Theater grounds remained occupied by police and their trucks until about 10pm. But streets by this time had become quiet with few people in them as people were heading homebound, taking with them stories of what had happened and what had not. A young man told a Rooz reporter, "This time too I escaped arrest. But only God knows when will my turn will come."
Iranian opposition calls for more peaceful gatherings - Iranian opposition groups have called on people to join peaceful gatherings in the main squares of cities across the country on Wednesday June 15. The Kaleme website reports that the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope has also invited people to visit the graves of the "martyrs" of the Green movement on Thursday, June 16.
... Payvand News - 06/15/11 ... --