The Slatest

Iranian Police Fire Tear Gas to Break Up Second Day of Protests

Iranian security forces stand guard in front of the British embassy in the capital Tehran on January 12, 2020 during demonstrations following the British ambassador's arrest for allegedly attending an illegal demonstration.
Iranian security forces stand guard in front of the British embassy in the capital Tehran on January 12, 2020 during demonstrations following the British ambassador’s arrest for allegedly attending an illegal demonstration. ATTA KENARE/Getty Images

Demonstrators took to the streets in Iran for the second day in a row Sunday, undeterred by a heavy police presence to continue protesting following the country’s admission that its military accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people aboard, following days of denials. Some videos of the protests showed police firing tear gas and using batons to break up protests, although there was no indication that authorities were massively cracking down on demonstrators.

Reports also suggest the protests had spread to other cities across the country, presenting a fresh challenge to the country’s leaders at a time of high tensions with the United States. “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” one group of protesters chanted outside a university in Tehran, reports Reuters, which cites video posted on Twitter.

The continuing protests reflect the continuing anger among Iranians after the military denied for days that it had anything to do with the crash of the Ukrainian plane. The protesters, many of whom appeared to be university students, chanted slogans against the country’s leaders, including, “Death to the dictator.” Many directly called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to resign. “Khamenei have shame. Leave the country,” some protesters chanted in Tehran.

The British ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, was briefly detained as he said he went to the vigil for the victims without realizing it would become a protest. “Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims,” Macaire wrote on Twitter. “I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting.” He was detained later but quickly released. Protesters gathered outside the British embassy on Sunday as some accused the ambassador of organizing protests.

As the protests continued, the head of the Revolutionary Guard apologized in an emotional speech before parliament. “I swear to almighty God that I wished I was on that plane and had crashed with them and burned but had not witnessed this tragic incident,” said Gen. Hossein Salami. “I have never been this embarrassed in my entire life. Never.”

President Donald Trump once again tweeted support for the protests in both Farsi and English. On Sunday he directed his message to the “leaders of Iran” telling them “DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS,” warning that “the World is watching.”