The Iran hikers chose the city of Oakland and the Occupy movement as the backdrop for a rare public appearance Monday.
Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal took part in the an Occupy Oakland rally at Frank Ogawa plaza. They said they wanted to show their support to the movement taking place in their town.
"We were hearing about (the occupations) little bit by little bit," Bauer said. "But it wasnt until getting back here to this city that it really hit me, that this is serious, that this is big."
The crowd erupted in applause.
"I feel proud of this happening in my city," Bauer said.
Up until now Occupy rallies have been mostly economic protests, but the hikers appearance took a turn toward the political. The hikers said they also felt a solidarity with hunger strike going on now in California prisons.
This is only their second public appearance since returning home to the United States after being freed from prison in Iran. They were arrested in July 2009 after Iran said they crossed over its border during a hike in northern Iraq. Shourd was released in Sept. 2010. Bauer and Fattal were released last month.
All three graduated from University of California at Berkeley, and Shourd, who grew up in Los Angeles, has been living in Oakland since her release.
The anti-Wall Street protests started in New York City a month ago and have spread across the country.
Occupy groups cite the economic disparity between the richest 1 percent of the population and the remaining 99 percent. They have been calling for increased regulation of banks and Wall Street investment firms.
There are also occupy groups in San Jose, Walnut Creek, Santa Rosa and San Rafael and other cities. On Monday afternoon, an Occupy group protested at the gates of Pebble Beach in Monterey County.