More than a dozen rallies were held around the city today to coincide with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at the United Nations General Assembly.
At one rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations, protesters with Iran 180 Degrees held a mock trial – indicting Ahmadinejad for many alleged crimes, including persecuting activists and journalists, persecuting women, holding nuclear war ambitions and being a puppet of powerful fundamentalist clerics.
Iran 180 Degrees is made up of representatives from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, 100 Hispanic Women and the Progressive Iranian Committee, as well the UJA-Federation.
"The people inside Iran who are willing to go out there and risk their lives to basically confront this regime with ill doings that it has perpetrated on the people of Iran for the last 32 years, love to see the fact that Iranians here feel the need to come out here and support them," said rally organizer Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi. "And stand up with them and get their voices heard."
Another rally against Ahmadinejad featured former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
“For too long, the world has acquiesced a regime in Iran that through mass murder, violence and intimidation has denied basic rights to your brothers and sisters and friends and relatives," said Giuliani.
Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly this afternoon and denounced sanctions against his country. The U.S. delegation walked out during the speech.
The Iranian leader said that some in the world speculated that the U.S. government supported the terrorists behind the September 11th terrorist attacks, in order to support Israel. Ahmadinejad did not provide any reasons for his volatile statements.
Meanwhile, after days of tips to avoid East Side gridlock that would worsen as President Barack Obama moved throughout Midtown for his U.N. speech, city drivers heeded the warning. Most avenues near the United Nations had easy-flowing traffic worthy of a Sunday morning.
"It's been organized pretty well, I can't really complain," said one New Yorker.
"I think people used different things to come to work, like the train. It's easier," said another.
"I have no expectations of finding a taxi. I'm walking everywhere," said a third.
The side streets did have the worst traffic, with many in the East 40s shut down between First and Third Avenues.
More closures are scheduled for Friday, but police say by next week all streets will be reopened.