Organizers as well as the hikers' families need Iran to listen. Now, one year later, they're trying a new strategy by moving away from politics and government. They're making the case that this is a humanitarian emergency.
Their message is one they want the world to hear. The U.C. Berkeley graduates -- Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd -- are still being held in an Iranian prison. The three were captured while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border.
"Iranian law calls for a four month period of investigation and then charges shall be filed and a trial given. It has been 12 months, there are not charges filed," said friend Margaret Roberts at the protest.
The Iranian government claims the investigation into espionage charges continues.
However, now there is a very public outcry. Friends and strangers gathered in San Francisco's Mission District to remember and support the three activists.
"We folded I think about 1,000 of these cranes in symbol of our peaceful request for the return of our friends," said friend Sima Alizadeh.
Similar events are taking place all over the world. On Friday, the mothers of all three hikers attended a protest in New York, outside the Iranian Mission to the U.N.
"We think it's going to take an outcry from millions of people, putting pressure on our government, putting pressure on the Iranian government," said Sarah Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd.
"We need the world talking about this unjust detention," said Shane Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey.
"It is our worst nightmare that they are detained," said Josh Fattal's mother, Laura Fattal.
But Iran continues to ignore the public pleas and so the hikers' friends are taking a firm stance.
"Iran we stand against you today, but we do not wish to, we ask you once more... release our friends now!" said friend Ethan Rafa.
According to Omid Memarian who helped coordinate legal efforts for the hikers in Iran, and at one point advised their mothers, the three are simply caught in the middle. He says Iran is still angry U.S. troops arrested Iranian diplomats in Iraq in 2007.
"The Iranian government wants to show teeth to the United States and say, 'Listen, you cannot come to the region and arrest our citizens for no cause' and this is the cost for that kind of behavior," said Memarian.
Memarian says the U.N. needs to get involved and protestors should put direct pressure on Iran's president, especially during his visit to New York in September.