Thousands of people gathered in Iran's capital Saturday to lend their support to the Iranian government, a response to anti-government protests that had been held there over the past two days, the AP and CNN report. Numbers vary, but reports place between 2,000 and 4,000 pro-government demonstrators in Tehran, with state media airing footage of protesters waving Iranian flags; CNN notes the anti-government protests received little coverage from state media. Officials say about 50 of those in the latter group have been arrested after social media posts spurred them to gather to protest rising gas and food prices, with blame for the nation's economic woes being directed at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and even at the US. "They always say that [they] are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?" one demonstrator said to the AP.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and President Trump tweeted an almost identical message about Iran Friday night, lending support to the original set of protesters. Trump's tweet noted: "Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime's corruption & its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people's rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!" An earlier State Department statement similarly urged the world to stick up for Iranians' "demands for basic rights and an end to corruption." Meanwhile, a statement on Iran's Foreign Ministry site labels Trump's comments as "opportunistic," and an Interior Ministry rep tells citizens "not to participate in these illegal gatherings, as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens," per the BBC.