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Mashtots Park: Police Forbid Tent to be Pitched, Despite Human Rights Defender’s Insistence

Environmental and civic activists protesting the construction of shops in a central Yerevan park resumed their non-stop sit-in on Mar. 31. According to statements issued by local civic initiatives “We are the owners of this city” and “Our city,” due to the heavy rains, activists spending the night at Mashtots Park tried to pitch a tent, which, however, was prohibited by police.

The activists recall two weeks ago when they first pitched a tent in the park, which was later seized by police in a nighttime raid. Later, RA Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan issued a statement saying that pitching a tent cannot be viewed as a violation of public order and that police actions in removing the tent were out of line.

Late on Mar. 31, activists say a representative from the Human Rights Defender’s Office responded to a call and arrived at Mashtots Park, but police officers didn’t listen to him, insisting that they will not allow a tent to be pitched. “As a result of their disdainful and aggressive attitude, Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan himself came to the park. The ‘negotiations’ between him and the police, however, were fruitless. The human rights defender was insisting that pitching a tent is not illegal, while officers, by way of Yerevan Deputy Police Chief Robert Melkonyan, didn’t take the human rights defender’s suggestion and call into consideration, and without any legal justification and on the basis of an arbitrary decision, prohibited pitching a tent. When a few activists tried to pitch the tent, the police, including the ‘red beret’s [riot police], in the present of the human rights defender, charged and jostling, didn’t allow activists to even open the tent,” reads the statement.

The activists condemn police actions and urge those making unlawful decisions to be held accountable.

Photo by Astghik Melkonyan.