Saturday, June 20, 2009

How they're doing it

The Tienanmen moment? Yes and no. Yes, it looks as though the Iranian regime decided that the moment has come to crush the protests by force. But in 1989 the Chinese regime seems to have wanted a concentrated, visible bloodbath in Tienanmen Square itself (to send a clear message). In this crackdown, the Iranian regime seems to be trying to avoid that.

According to a CNN report:
Uniformed and plainclothes police were deployed around Revolution Square, the site of a major planned demonstration, and traffic was being turned away on a major thoroughfare leading to the square, a witness said.

The forces confronted demonstrators who tried to avoid the thoroughfare and take side streets toward the square. Clashes erupted as forces used clubs to beat back protesters.

Periodically, groups of armed police would fire rifles into the air to disperse protesters along the side streets near Revolution Square.

Cell phone service was brought down after 5:30 p.m. in the area, witnesses said. [....]
Similar actions are being reported from other cities across Iran.

=> An e-mail message from my friend David Nickerson (quoted with his permission) gets to the heart of the matter:
After a week of bungling the protests and miscalculating, the Iranian regime writes a handbook on how to brutally repress a mass movement without iconic images. Simply don't let large crowds ever gather. Block off the streets and keep people compartmentalized in small neighborhoods.

[JW: Also, of course, they've cleared out foreign journalists.]

I realize that this is hardly new (I recall that UC campuses built in the 60s purposefully lacked large quads to prevent places for protests), but it is disappointing after a week of enormous crowds.

The bombing of the shrine was also a nice touch.

My heart goes out to the Iranians.
And he adds in a follow-up:
The scenario was entirely predictable, but that doesn't make it any less devastating. The past few days have been genuinely inspiring. Today is depressing reality
This may or may not be the end of it, though. We'll see.

--Jeff Weintraub