Armenian opposition protest started in the Liberty square on February 20, in response to large-scale electoral fraud, vote buying and violence, ended today, 10 days after, with police forces storming the square around 7 o’clock in the morning and forcing the tent-camp of the protesters out.
The opposition protest, peaceful as it was, was held with violations of the RA Law on Gatherings and Peaceful protests. Usually, during the day, there would be from 20-40,000 opposition supporters gathering for the rally. The number tripled at least on one occasion, on February 26th, when people forcibly brought to the Republic square in Yerevan to support the pro-government candidate Serzh Sargsyan went over to join the rally in support of Serzh Sargsyan’s opponent – Ter-Petrossian.
Despite numerous warnings from police, the President – the protesters stayed in the Liberty square day and night, sleeping in tents put up in the square and burning bonfires to get warm. During the 9 days of the protests, authorities launched a massive propaganda campaign against the Ter-Petrossian supporters, portraying protesters as armed rioters, drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless. Meanwhile a number of arrests of vocal opposition figures as well as Yerkrapah members (a union of former Karabakh war freedom fighters) were carried out. A case was reported, when State Security servicemen had joined the rally disguised, and tried to provoke the peaceful protesters for more aggressive actions, but had been prevented from doing so by organizers of the opposition rally.
Yesterday President Kocharyan spoke again, warning of police action. Today, after police strike, violence was reported, the opposition supporters tried to resist with stones and sticks. From what I know around 31 people have suffered so far, 6 of whom have been police officers.At the moment the Liberty square is chained by police forces.
Police are claiming, that they had evidence about preparations by the opposition forces to distribute weapons and start violent actions. However, this morning during, and after the police attack on protesters, journalists were prevented from taking photos and videos, the camera of a Yerkir-Media TV operators was broken. Later, the police footage shows various types of weapons found in the Liberty square after police had cleared the place of the protesters, however, considering all the propaganda and dirty methods of police action we have seen so far, it is hard to believe, that this is not fabricated evidence.
From various media reports we learn, that the police violently beat up those in the Liberty square and chased them down several streets. By 12 o’clock when I was near the French embassy, there were riot police forces blocking the area, with crowds of angry people squeezed between the police forces in front of the French embassy on Grigor Lusavorich street. Other people were coming to the area, some were throwing rocks at the police from the side of the French embassy and from the rear – from the Yerevan Municipality side. Approaching proved a difficult task, I took some video shots, and turned back.
Anyway – I still see this as a struggle of two power hungry elites, and some 30-40,000 people, manipulated by Ter-Petrossian, blinded by hatred and lies from the side of the opposition, caught in between. Ter-Petrossian knew the police would act, but kept lying to people, claiming support of police officials. The government had to use force to restore order – and I think it is exactly as it should be.
Anyways – an hour later I left for Gyumri – my parents kept calling, urging to come over with my wife. So I did. Was it an act of a coward? Maybe – but hell, this is not my fight! Ter-Petrossian wants power? Let him go get it now, although I’m sure, that his becoming president won’t bring anything good to the country. Unfortunately, with all these people finally pissed off by police violence, Ter-Petrossian still has a very real chance! According to the latest reports people have gathered in front of the Sundukian theatre, near the French embassy led by Stepan Demirchyan, Nikol Pashinyan, Aram Sargsyan and Khachatur Suqiasyan, and are waiting for Ter-Petrossian to come and speak to them. There’s a long day ahead…