As many of their friends and relatives clashed with security forces in Iran, hundreds of demonstrators gathered Saturday in front of the Federal Building in Westwood to join the protests over allegations of voter fraud in the June 12 Iranian presidential election.
Holding signs that read “Stop the Killing” and pictures of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dressed as a Nazi, the protesters lined Wilshire Boulevard shouting slogans in English and Persian and were greeted by a chorus of horns from supportive motorists.
“We’re here to show solidarity with the people on the streets of Iran,” said Shahin, 31, a computer executive from the San Fernando Valley. “I hope, to people here, this will be another manifest about how the people in Iran are so different than the government.”
Shahin moved to California from Tehran about nine years ago and keeps in touch with his family regularly.
“Today, I told them not to go out. There obviously was going to be an armed response.”
More than 1,000 people joined the peaceful, late-morning rally, most wearing green arm bands and scarves to show solidarity with Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s reformist challenger, who says the president’s election victory was tainted by voter irregularities.
A similar protest took place Saturday in San Diego, where several hundred demonstrators gathered with signs in front of the federal courthouse. Participants waved to passing motorists and chanted that the Iranian government should nullify the election results.
Word about the Westwood protest spread across Southern California over Twitter and Facebook, the social-networking sites that have become some of the main avenues through which Iranian students and expatriates in Southern California have contacted relatives in Iran and kept abreast of developments in the country. Iranian authorities have sought to cut off the supply of information by blocking opposition websites, jamming satellite TV channels and banning foreign journalists.
The Westwood demonstration brought together a cross-section of the expatriate community in the Los Angeles area, home to one of the largest Iranian American communities in the U.S.
A few protesters carried a photograph of a woman, her face spattered with blood, who they said had just been killed during a protest in Iran. They said they had downloaded the picture from Facebook.
Many at the protest said they were afraid to telephone relatives in Iran, fearful that the government might be monitoring calls. They also were reluctant to divulge their names because of concerns about retribution against their loved ones in Iran.
Sahar, a 24-year-old performing arts student at Cal State Fullerton, spent the morning cobbling together signs with pictures of fiery protests in Tehran and the slogan “We want democracy, human rights.”
“They are facing death in the streets in Iran. This is the least I can do,” she said.
Sahar’s family fled Iran several years ago, moving to Austria before settling in Southern California. “They wanted me to have freedom, to be who I wanted to be. They felt that I couldn’t do that in Iran, being a woman.”
Times staff writers Tony Perry and Jack Leonard contributed to this report.