Armenian police have been blocking the entry of a small group of Armenian opposition activists into Yerevan’s newly reopened Liberty square, the traditional location of political gatherings in this country, where the foundations of current independent republic were laid.
The square had been the scene of non-stop sitting protests for days after February 19, 2008 elections as the opposition cried fowl over elections which were criticized by reputable international observers. The political developments in February 2008 culminated in an attack against peaceful protesters by police forces early on March 1st and triggered clashes between opposition supporters and security forces which resulted in 10 deaths and the institution of a state of emergency.
After the state of emergency was lifted, the opposition kept trying to return to the Liberty square. The authorities closed down the square citing the need to build an underground parking facility underneath. The move was seen by most as an attempt to block opposition entry into the square.
The square reopened days ago, after being closed for more than 21 months. The opposition has been attempting to return here and stage a small protest action for 4 days. The police interfered at first, but eventually allowed the action to take place on Saturday, May 28th. Starting from Sunday, there has apparently been a strict order not to allow any further opposition actions on the Liberty square. Oppositionists were repeatedly blocked entry, detained on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. On Monday a group of oppositionists and accompanying journalists were detained. 3 people, including a 23-year-old female journalist were charged with attacking police officers. On Tuesday the police prevented the opposition even sitting in one of the cafeterias surrounding Yerevan’s Liberty square after blocking entry.
The opposition has declared, that they will keep coming back.
Deputy head of Yerevan’s Police Robert Melkonian has indicated, that the Armenian authorities want to make the square permanently off-limits to the opposition bloc. “Do you remember the time when they pitched tents and set bonfires in the square?” he told RFE/RL. “Do you want a repeat of that situation? After all, there is a car park under the square,” added the police official. “Large numbers of people must not gather here. If 100, 150 or 200 persons gather here today, this square will become a rally site tomorrow.”
PS: One big fat WTF to you Mr. Melkonian! We’re talking about the main site of all historic political gatherings in this country, aren’t we?