Despite warnings from the police, that the first opposition rally since the tragic events of March 1, is unsanctioned, by 6 o’clock the crowd had started to gather around Yerevan’s Manuscript Museum (Matenadaran – a traditional location for rallies) and after negotiations with the police, who were initially blocking access to the free areas in front of the museum, the opposition had been allowed to hold the rally.
There had been technical difficulties – from what I understood, the opposition had been denied access to electricity outlets or electricity had been cut off ‘unexpectedly’ and they were busy installing a diesel electricity generator to power the sound equipment. By the time I got there – at about 19:30, the rally hadn’t started yet, some people had started to walk away because of quite unpleasant summer sun. Here and there groups of young people with flags were shouting “Miatsum”, “Hima” and warming up the crowd immediately around them. Riot police had chained the Mashtots avenue, keeping the street free for traffic. As the amount of people was too big to fit around matenadaran, many had stationed on the pavements around the Mashtots and Koryun avenues. The crowd stretched all the way down to Nairi Cinema theater, becoming more sparse as it went.
Levon Ter-Petrossian’s arrival at the scene was met with cheers and shouts. The rally started at around 20:00 with a short greeting and the remix of “Payqar, Payqar-Qochari”, sounding nostalgic after the February discotheque-rallies, the first speeches were about the A1plus victory at the European court and forecasts, that the PACE hearing on Armenia next week will note the lack of willingness by the Armenian authorities to resolve the situation and engage in dialogue with the opposition.
Estimating the crowd size is rather hard. According to RFE / RL – the head of Yerevan Police Department Nerses Nazaryan has stated 10,000, while Aram Z. Sargsyan estimated a figure of up to 50,000. From the rallies I’ve seen in the past, I’d say the crowd is clearly much bigger then the 10,000 figure – I think around 20,000 would be a realistic estimate.
Anyway – the size of the crowd is not important. What is important, is that the rally is peaceful, and hopefully there won’t be more violence. Really – please, please – we can’t afford another March 1 now. On the positive side though, re-establishing the right for peaceful rallies in Armenia is also a necessity and this rally has already achieved something significant – we, the free people of Armenia have the right to rallies, despite any amount of idiotic laws on rallies and demonstrations, and we also have the strength to reclaim our right, despite all efforts of police. That is exactly why I’m planning to go back to the site of the rally and re-claim my share of that very right to gather for people demonstrations!