By Edward Yeranian
Iranian police have clashed with opposition demonstrators who tried to take over a government sanctioned protest organized to mark the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. A government crackdown on the anti-government demonstrators turned violent in some places.
An officially sponsored government rally devolved into rival protests Wednesday as tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of the Iranian capital, some of them renewing opposition protests against the conduct of the recent election campaign.
Anti-government protesters were dealt with by force, as a government crackdown turned violent.
Government backed demonstrators at the initial rally outside the old U.S. Embassy in Tehran shouted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” A pro-government speaker also addressed the crowd, praising the Islamic Republic, the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Meanwhile, in Tehran’s nearby Hafte-Tir Square, thousands of opposition demonstrators shouting anti-government slogans, including “Death to the dictator”, and “Down with (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Khamenei” were met by anti-riot police and Basij militiamen waving batons and firing tear gas. Eyewitnesses report numerous injuries and dozens of arrests.
Scores of volunteer Basij militiamen also drove their motorbikes into crowds, to disperse them.
Scores of opposition demonstrators, many of them young people, also chanted “Death to Russia” and “Death to China”, because of their support for Iran’s government, instead of the usual pro-government slogan of “Death to America.”
The demonstrations came 30 years after Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy and took 52 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days.
On the eve of the anniversary of the U.S. embassy takeover, Tuesday, President Barack Obama said, “We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future is it for.”
Opposition demonstrators, meanwhile, chanted “Obama, Obama, are you with us, or against us?” Many opposition activists have been critical of Mr. Obama for negotiating with the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom they say was re-elected in June as a result of fraud and vote-rigging.
Mr. Obama also told Iranians in his Tuesday message that the United States wants to move beyond a past of “sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation” and seeks a relationship based upon mutual interests and respect.