9:30 AM About 200 participants of the sit-in against the rise in electricity prices in Armenia decided to spend the night at the Freedom Square. One of the members of the “No to Robbery” initiative urged Deputy Chief of Yerevan Police Valery Osipyan late on June 19 to make sure the police ensured the safety of the people without any provocations, did not make contact with the demonstrators and did not aggravate the situation. The Armenian Constitution, the activist recalled, guarantees the rights of the citizen of Armenia to stage a sit-in.
“I’m sorry that you’ve still not understood that the police are one of you; we stand for the citizen of the Republic of Armenia,” Osipyan responded.
“That’s not what we saw, but let’s not go into details,” the member of the initiative said.
Law enforcement officers, Osipyan countered, have the right to use physical force if the demonstrators violated the rules of coexistence during the night, set up tents, or polluted the area.
8:35 PM Thousands of citizens gathered on Friday, June 19 at the Freedom Square in Yerevan to protest against the hike in electricity prices in Armenia. Soon after, the protesters decided to stage a sit-in at the square. The intention was first expressed from the stage in front of the Opera building by “No to Robbery” initiative member Vaghinak Shushanyan.
“We have two options: either we go home, sit in our kitchens and curse the authorities, or we stay here and prove our power,” he said.
Hearing these words, the protesters began chanting “Now! Now!,” and sat in the middle of the Square.
The members of the initiative later announced that they were going to stay at the Freedom Square, and if they did not receive an official document on the cancellation of the decision to increase electricity tariff by 7PM on June 22, they were going to organize a march towards the RA Presidential Palace on Baghramyan 26.
Deputy Chief of Yerevan Police Valery Osipyan, accompanied by several law enforcement officers, approached the rostrum to announce to the protesters that their calls for a sit-in were illegal. However, the organizers returned that the action was not planned: it was a spontaneous decision of the demonstrators. Osipyan and his accompanying officers made a few phone calls, after which they announced that the citizens were allowed to sit at the square until 11 PM; after that, the Deputy Police Chief stated, their actions would be considered illegal. Osipyan added that they would not allow the protesters to bring tents.
Shortly after this announcement, law enforcement officers proceeded to aggressive and provocative actions. First they went to the young members of the anarchist bloc and demanded to hand over the few tires they had with them, arguing that the protest notice said nothing about any tires. The young people, however, countered that the law does not prohibit bringing tires to protest actions. In response, the police started pushing and throwing punches, lifted the protesters forcefully from their sits and seized the tires, injuring several people in the process.
As the sit-in went on, law enforcement officers continued to walk among the protesters, pushing, hitting and otherwise provoking them; they constantly repeated that the sit-in was illegal.
According to the correspondent of Epress.am at the Freedom Square, police officers on duty at the square entrance have begun discussing the possibility of withdrawing the people from the area one by one.
At this moment in time, however, the protesters still remain at the Square.