Preamble: This article continues Boris Rozhin’s analysis of the protests in Yerevan, and his initial thoughts on the subject can be found here. As the situation continues to develop rapidly, some of the conclusions may appear out of date, but are nevertheless valuable considerations to keep in mind as we observe the continuation of the protest actions that started in the middle of June. Slavyangrad.org will continue to publish materials on the subject as matters evolve.
The sit-in protest in Yerevan, which threatened to escalate into a political revolution was largely dispersed by the Armenian police on June 23, 2015.
The dispersal of protestors in Yerevan (Kommersant.ru).
During the dispersal of the protest rally in Yerevan, over 20 people were wounded and approximately 250 were detained. Around-the-clock protest actions against the increase in electricity rates began on June 19, 2015; however, on Tuesday morning the rally was dispersed by police utilising special equipment and water cannons. Right now the situation in the city has stabilized. Several hundred protestors continue a sit-in action.
The protest rally was organized by a civic movement ‘Say No To Robbery’, the activists who came out to protest the increase in electricity prices, scheduled for August 1, 2015. The protest action against the price hike began in Yerevan in the middle of June.
Monday evening, June 22, 2015, several thousand participants who took part in the demonstration headed to the Presidential Palace on the Bagramyan Avenue. The police at first blocked the movement of the protest action, and on Tuesday morning dispersed the protestors with water cannons and other special equipment. In the course of the dispersal, over 20 people suffered injuries, including 11 members of the police forces. Approximately 250 people were arrested. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Armenia initiated prosecutions for hooliganism.
Before the demonstration was dispersed, the participants of the action were offered to form a group of several people for a meeting with the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan; however, they refused. “Our demand—to annul the decision of the regulator to increase the tariffs—has been announced, and we are not inclined to repeat it,” stated one of the coordinators of the ‘Say No To Robbery’ movement, Gevork Sanoyan.
According to the official statement of the law enforcement authorities, the Armenian police employed force because the organizers of the protest ignored a request to disperse. “Due to the counteraction of the organizers, the negotiations and the attempts to persuade did not yield results, and as the situation deteriorated, the police used force,” stated the representatives of the police, who asserted that “appeals and requests from the police were ignored by the organizers of the procession,” who “failed to comply with repeated demands to end the illegal assembly, and which they were given reasonable time to do so.” The police further emphasized that, “among those who found themselves in the range of police measures were journalists who consistently ignored calls and requests to keep a reasonable distance from the place of the events and not to interfere with legitimate actions” of law enforcement authorities. According to the police, “the representatives of the media essentially became participants” of the protest action.
According to information from media agencies, currently the situation in the city has stabilized. The Bagramyan Avenue remains closed, and several hundred protestors continue a sit-in action. “Municipal services quickly cleared the street, after which many hours of protest accumulated a lot of cigarette butts, empty plastic water bottles, food remnants and other debris,” an official representative of the Yerevan mayoralty, Artur Gevorkyan told TASS.
After the protest action was dispersed, the Armenian National Congress, a faction of the opposition bloc, left the session hall of the Armenian Parliament–which at the moment is considering a series of bills in an extraordinary session. The faction stated in its official announcement: “Once again the authorities used disproportionate force against protestors who were conducting a peaceful assembly.” As noted by the MPs, “violence was used against numerous citizens and journalists. Video cameras, cameras, and memory cards were destroyed and confiscated.” They demanded “the immediate release of individuals detained and for the prosecution of the officials who used disproportionate force.”
Post Scriptum: On the whole, the events so far are developing more in line with the Belarusian scenario, whereby Lukashenko acted fairly quickly and by employing moderately harsh measures, immobilized all attempts of the revolution away from the streets.
When all is considered, in Armenia, there are many more objective reasons for protests in relation with a difficult socio-economic situation. There is a risk that the situation transforms into a Brazilian-like scenario, such that the objective frustration with price increases will continue feeding protests for months to come.
Also, considering that the protest was dispersed, the disinformation about the Yerevan police joining the protestors turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking (on the part of the Ukrainian media—Ed.).