"Press Conference" Against Iran Government Produces No News, Much Political Support in Irvine

Rep. Laura Richardson (inset), Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Rep. Ed Royce, together at last.
If the goal of a press conference is to produce a "big announcement" that makes news and warrants coverage--the usual reason one calls a press conference in the first place--then the Iran Supporters Network failed Friday evening at Irvine City Hall. But if the idea was to bring local politicians, community leaders and the Iranian American community together, engage in some spirited preaching to the choir and force a certain Weekly reporter to miss dinner, then the gathering was a smashing success.


A couple videos movingly capturing the struggle for freedom in Iran and abroad were shown before the lights came up and local politicians or representatives sent in their absence addressed the half-full council chambers and later took questions from the public and small media contingent, which was mostly culled from Iranian American television.


No big surprise: everyone was for the freedom seekers in the streets of Iran, against the "brutal" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad government and behind the Iranian American community's efforts to change the status quo. It was agreed that with 72 percent of Iran's population under 30, the time for change is upon us, and that rule by force, unjustified detentions and forced confessions are wrong.


According to Beth Krom, at least she, Sukhee Kang and Larry Agran--shown together on the campaign trail in 2008--are against Iran's current government.
Actually, they are wrong according to only three-fifths of the Irvine City Council, according to the first speaker. Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom, who has announced her intention to graduate next year to the congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach), mentioned only herself, colleague Larry Agran and Mayor Sukhee Kang being united against those "repugnant" practices. Guess that means council members Christina Shea and Steven Choi are in Ahmadinejad's pocket. No wonder they didn't show despite being on the Iran Supporters Network program.


Like Krom, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) and staffers for Campbell and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), said their peace before quickly exiting for previous engagements, although Richardson, who apparently had to catch a plane for an international flight the next morning, did at least stick around long enough for a half dozen questions from the audience first.


If there was an Iran Supporters Network press conference trouper award, it would go to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), who not only said it was his honor to stick it out for the full night, but he allowed himself to be pulled away for a live TV interview. "What you are asking for is that Iran respect its own constitution," he told the crowd, which included his father, Ed Royce Sr. and previous Weekly cover boy and Afghanistan human rights advocate Hasan Nouri. "The Iranian people are absolutely appalled by the violation of its own constitution."


Among the injustices that had been highlighted in a video opener was Nokia-Siemens having set up for the Iranian government a call center that freedom fighters contend has allowed mobile phones to be tapped, SMS text messages to be scrambled and calls to be interrupted. Former detainees have also said Iranian government interrogators demanded answers about their cell-phone use. Propped up in his introduction as one of the country's leading advocates for human rights around the world, Royce said he has co-authored with his fellow senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) legislation that would give companies like Nokia a choice: "Continue to suppress freedom, and you can no longer do business in the United States."


That was the first statement of the night to draw loud, sustained applause.

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