DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, June 24, 2009— -- The Iranian government escalated its crackdown against opposition protests in Tehran today, eyewitnesses told ABC News by telephone. Uniformed and plainclothes Revolutionary Guards replaced regular police and army soldiers, and large numbers of them were bused into central Tehran.
The clash began outside the parliament building. Protesters came in greater numbers today, expecting to see opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. They were met with overwhelming force, according to eyewitnesses.
"They took beating to a new level," said one eyewitness, a woman. "Several men beating each protester at once and not stopping. I saw a lot of blood."
Another witness said, "They were using all sorts of weapons -- cables, wooden clubs. They were shooting into the air to disperse people. People were scared. It is a much, much more tense situation."
Security forces arrested anyone wearing black or green -- green, the color of Mousavi's opposition movement, and black, worn by many protesters to mourn the victims of the violence. Witnesses said women outnumbered men, as much as two to one, but they were not spared violence.
"A huge guard -- he looked like an ape -- confronted me the moment I exited the subway station near the parliament," a female protester told ABC News. "He pushed me back several meters to the ground. I asked him why he pushed me. He said it's because I'm wearing black."
Witnesses reported many people injured, some severely, but they did not see anyone killed. Earlier in the day, several updates on Twitter reported accounts of some deaths.
Mousavi, his top aide arrested today and his campaign offices raided, was never seen.
"It's changed a lot in the last few days," one protester told ABC. "We're doing this all on our own now."
Supreme Leader Vows Protests Won't Matter
Seemingly ignoring the chaos on the streets, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held his first official meeting today. And Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed the protests would not influence the government.
Neither the system nor the people, he said, will give in to any pressure.
Iran said Tuesday a special court would be set up for hundreds of protesters arrested so far. Protesters who challenge the government were given a new punishment -- confessions apparently coerced were aired on state television.
One woman, identified as a rioter, admitted to vandalism and said she was provoked by the Voice of America and the BBC.
The Guardian Council ruled out overturning the election, but later requested a five-day extension to hear the candidates' complaints. The supreme leader granted the request.
On the streets, the opposition could not generate crowds. Protesters are increasingly outmatched in strength and organization by security forces, especially Basij fighters.
"They're much more organized than the opposition is right now because they have 30 years of organizing within schools, with mosques and local communities, and they have their own local leaders," said Jason Rezaiah, a correspondent with Tehranbureau.com. "They're a powerful force inside Iran."