“The police officers’ actions were an unreasonable use of force against people who were holding a peaceful protest. About 500 people had geared up to protest while the police officers – armed with rubber batons, water cannons - a whole legion – were persecuting people up to Freedom Square. Actually, the actions against journalists were well-planned and aimed to hinder them from recording all that violence,” says HCA Vanadzor Head Artur Sakunts.
Sakunts adds some protesters were detained without reasonable grounds and later sent for medical examination.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, 5:30 a.m., the demonstration against the recent electricity price hike was dispersed with blasts of water and use of force by the riot police. 237 protesters were dragged away by the police. Journalists and bloggers reported that they, too, had endured rough treatment by uniformed and plainclothes officers.
Vardan Harutyunyan, Head of the Center for Rights and Freedom, says during rallies and gatherings protesters always show the greatest respect for the law.
“I have never seen any illegal action by rally participants, even on March 1, 2008. The riot police have always been a swagger stick in the authorities’ hand. Now people are exercising their constitutional right and why should force be used against peaceful protesters?” says Harutyunyan.
The protesters who were arrested on Tuesday were provided with an effective legal protection, says Haykuhi Harutyunyan, Head of the Protection of Rights without Borders NGO.
“We had four delegates at different police stations, three in Yerevan and one in Ashtarak. The use of force by the police was unreasonable several detainees were injured right at the police stations. About ten people were moved from Yerevan to other police stations, but there was no information or supporting document,” Harutyunyan says.
Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, spoke on the violence acts against journalists. 13 journalists and cameramen were reportedly injured while there were observed 15 cases of obstruction of journalists' activities.
“The detained journalists did not violate any law, yet they were arrested, taken to police stations and questioned. The political elite must reflect on the situation instead of feeling proud of the police officers,” Melikyan believes.
The clash on Baghramyan Avenue, activist Daniel Ioannisyan believes, was a punitive action against protesters. “People were being pursued from Baghramyan Avenue to Freedom Square and detained. It is not accidental that journalists’ cameras were seized and crushed. The police used violence against journalists in the presence of police generals and with their consent.”
The struggle was like that of Gandhi, he believes.
“We sit on the street and say, “We are not going to touch you, you can beat us, take us to police stations and send us to reanimation but Baghramyan Avenue will definitely be closed” and in this regard protesters have won,” Ioannisyan says.
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Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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