Campaign Violence: Radical opposition march leads to clash

A campaign street rally turned violent in Yerevan last night when the oppositional Impeachment bloc, Hanrapetutyun and New Times parties staged a march to the National Security Service (formerly KGB).

Impeachment bloc election propagandizing is directed at the ouster of President Robert Kocharyan, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and against oligarch party boss of Prosperous Armenia, Gagik Tsarukyan.

Chanting “Freedom and Peace” (A-za-tu-tyun, Kha-gha-ghu-tyun), the march participants arrived at NSS headquarters in the late evening. Street lights on Nalbandian Street were turned off, and law enforcement wielding heavy batons began attacking the crowd. Other enforcement officers stood by wearing brass knuckles.

Several injuries were reported.

“Everything was done on purpose in order to make people panic,” – one of the Impeachment party leaders, editor-in-chief of Haykakan Zhamanak daily Nikol Pashinyan, who was on the front lines, told ArmeniaNow. “At first electricity went off, then the microphone was taken away so that we couldn’t control people.”

Police officers pushed people back and started shouting “Bring the truncheons”: And the brawl started.

Impeachment member David Matevosyan was among a group that was beaten, placed into cars and taken to a nearby police station. When the leaders were removed, people who were not part of the original group appeared, shouting to the crowd that the leaders had “run away”.

Women were cursing police and authorities. Police responded with tear gas.

Today the state police issued a statement saying that “attempts to instigate hooligan activities were made also during the previous rallies of the given parties, but due to the restrained behavior on the part of the police it was possible to control the situation and avoid unwelcome consequences.” The statement called the crowd "cynical and disrespectful".

The party leaders and participants delivered an ultimatum demanding to set free those taken into custody. After some negotiations the demand was satisfied.

The rally continued to Azatutyun square with participants carrying the poster “Let us be the masters of our country”.

There, Republic party leader Aram Z. Sargsyan told supporters that the next rally would be on May 13 (a day after the election).

“If the elections turn out to be fair, we will celebrate it here. If not, then we will prove with our voices that the people are the masters of this country.”