Steps Ahead on May Day

Thousands of security and special antiriot policemen were deployed throughout Tehran from morning into late evening in anticipation of May Day protests and gatherings. In a major departure from past practice, the Green Movement last week sent strong overtures to the labor movement by calling on Green supporters to commemorate May 1, International Workers' Day. Some pro-Green websites and blogs urged their supporters to congregate in the late afternoon near the Labor Ministry on Azadi Avenue, one of the spots across which a crowd of 2 million marched during last year's historic June 25 protests. Thousands then had spontaneously chanted, "Ministry of Labor, and no work for labor."

The special police units with their familiar riot gear and deafening motorcycle formations were out in full force from around 11 a.m., joined in some areas by Ministry of Intelligence agents. At noon, near the intersection of Valiasr and Enghelab, pedestrians' bags were searched, presumably for offending leaflets. The heavy-handed tactics were clearly intended to intimidate the workers and their supporters. In fact, the effect of the overwhelming police presence was nothing but ironic. By early afternoon, millions of Tehranis had learned firsthand that it was International Workers Day and that protests might break out against government policies.

At the appointed time -- between 4 and 6 p.m. -- a crowd estimated at 4,000 congregated around the Labor Ministry building. They strode dow... >>>

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