‘Woman, life, freedom’: L.A. protest over Iran draws thousands

Thousands of Iranian-Americans marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday in solidarity with protests that have rocked Iran since the death of a young woman in police custody three weeks ago.

In Pershing Square on Saturday morning, protest leaders using megaphones led chants of “zan, zendegi, azadi” or “woman, life, freedom,” the rallying cry of demonstrations that began in Iran and have spread to cities around the world.

The protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after being arrested by the country’s vice squad for improperly wearing her hijab, have become the largest anti-government demonstrations in Iran in years.

“If they can be on the streets in Iran, we can be on the streets here — it’s the least we can do,” said Leila Amadi, 22, of West Los Angeles, who carried a sign that read, ” be her voice In a nod to the tricolor Iranian flag, Amadi wore a white top, green shorts and bright red lipstick.

Iranian-American comedian and actor Maz Jobrani livestreamed part of the demonstration on Instagram and sang along with the crowd, “Say her name: Mahsa Amini.”

“Everyone in America should know about this,” Jobrani said. “This is a fight for freedom around the world. It’s for democracy. It’s about moving away from authoritarianism. The people of Iran are fighting for democracy.”

Southern California has the largest number of Iranian residents outside of Iran. Protests were also planned in Orange County and San Diego, as well as more than a dozen other US cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Miami, Denver and Washington DC

Iranian protests in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

Thousands of Iranian-Americans are demonstrating in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday in solidarity with the protests in Iran.

(Laura J Nelson / Los Angeles Times)

As the crowd, flanked by drummers and motorcyclists, pushed up Hill Street and across 1st Street towards City Hall, people chanted, “Democracy for Iran, regime change for Iran!”

Many protesters wore masks, sunglasses and hats to avoid being identified in photos and drone footage. Others declined to give their full names, saying they were afraid of endangering loved ones living in Iran.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had to protest like this, and unfortunately it won’t be the last,” said Fereshteh, a Los Angeles resident in her 40s, who asked that only her first name be used out of fear the government would arrest her when she returned to Iran to visit her parents.

She held a sign that read, “How many protesters has the Iranian government killed today?” with red handprints in the background. The back of the sign featured photos of 20 people killed during the demonstrations.

Amnesty International said a crackdown on demonstrations by Iran’s clerical government since September 17 has resulted in the deaths of at least 52 people.

“We want world leaders to do something,” she said. “We need help. Iran needs help. We cannot do this without the help of other governments, especially the United States.”

Dozens of pre-revolutionary Iranian flags could be seen in the crowd, showing a lion and a sun in the center instead of the stylized red symbol of the Islamic Republic. Raised during the government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and banned after the 1979 revolution, the flag is commonly seen during anti-government protests.

A woman named Shohleh, who left Iran 44 years ago, wrapped the flag around her shoulders as she marched to City Hall. She said she felt compelled to join the protests to support the Iranian women’s struggle but was concerned that social media posts and protests would not be enough.

“I hope things will change,” she said. “But in my head and in my heart, I fear they won’t.”

The march ended at Los Angeles City Hall, where Iranian singer Googoosh addressed the crowd.

Other protesters gathered around a black pickup truck loaded with portable speakers and blared out “Baraye,” the ballad by Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour that has become the anthem of the protests.

The crowd sang along to the song’s closing lyrics: “For women, life, freedom; for freedom, for freedom.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-01/iran-protest-los-angeles-mahsa-amini ‘Woman, life, freedom’: L.A. protest over Iran draws thousands

Alley Einstein

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