Armenian residents protesting the ban on street trade in the capital on Wednesday were gathered outside Yerevan City Hall where they proceeded to sell the fruit, vegetables and flowers they had brought with them by calling out to passers-by to purchase goods from them.
Police officers on the scene formed a human chain, not allowing the street vendors to get closer to the building.
At the start of the protest, officer Gegham Baghramyan seized the container from which one woman was selling apples, noting that it is prohibited to sell such items on the street. And though Baghramyan subsequently returned the container, he warned the vendors that if they attempt to continue to trade on the street they will be taken to the police station.
At this remark, the protesting vendors became visibly angry and said how is it that the city allows watermelons to be sold on the street but not apples?
“Families are being torn apart; today we’ve come to trade, to supply this money to families. Last time we made sales of 14,000 drams [about $37 USD] outside the government building — we transferred the money to a needy family so they can have money for bread. Today too we’re going to transfer the money to needy families,” said one trader named Alisa Khurshudyan.
Another protesting vendor, Gayane Hovhannisyan, told reporters that if the issue is not resolved through these protests, she will stage a hunger strike in the near future.
After staying with the street vendors outside city hall for some time, police officers suggested two people from their group come with them to meet with the necessary municipal representatives there. However, near the entrance of the building it became known that city hall was closed for lunch. This vexed the protesting traders, one of whom said, “They’ve left us to starve while they go eat in restaurants.”
One other protestor, Heghine Vardanyan, said they don’t want to leave the country, which is what might happen if they don’t find work.
“Just as the prime minister said let them emigrate, so there are no problems created for them… but why should we leave our homeland, emigrate, if we don’t touch them and they don’t touch us at all [i.e. we don’t have nothing to do with them and they don’t have anything to do with us]. Let them leave, go; with our work, we will build our homeland more beautiful, more tasteful. We don’t need his beautification [project] if he does it at the expense of pushing Armenians out of the homeland,” she said, most likely referring to Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan who enforced the street trade ban.
Seeing that they are unable to meet with city hall employees, the street traders agreed to organize a sit-in outside the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia office today from 6 to 8 pm.