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Beyond the Barricades at Yerevan Demonstration Site; the Aftermath of Violent Protest Dispersal

Morning, June 25. The barricades in the center of Yerevan are on the spot; police cordons and heavy machinery not far from the parliament and the presidential residence – too. At dawn, people started cleaning the territory. Currently, there are hundreds of people on Baghramyan Avenue; in the evening, the number of demonstrators will increase tenfold. The protesters haven't been attacked in two days; retaliation on law enforcement officers for the violent dispersal of the previous demonstration has not been initiated either. 

After water cannons, mass arrests and beatings in the morning of June 23, Armenian police leadership periodically assure the public of their refusal of violent dispersals, and claim they have begun an internal investigation. The young representatives of the protest's initiative group regularly use loudspeakers and microphones of journalists to remind demonstrators of the peaceful nature of the protest action, and warn of provocateurs calling for violence. These warnings are unlike the violence used by Armenian security forces the day before: they call for calm among victims and potential victims of police brutality. Symmetric measures against the members of law enforcement agencies are not even being considered by the crowd. 

After the sharp rise in the number of demonstrators, many politicians, singers, actors, and priests flocked to the blocked center of the Armenian capital. They mainly gather in the area assigned for reporters between police cordons and trash cans used by protesters to build barricades. The place has been named by demonstrators “between two piles of trash.” 

The barricade also serves as a rostrum for the representatives of the initiative group. The speakers are weak; the sound, at best, covers only one-fifth of the entire territory of the rally. In the remaining area, people congregate around live music, dances, and discussions. People often speak of the possibility to go beyond the limits of the demand to not increase electricity rates. They also discuss political forces which are trying to take hold of the demonstration. 

Meanwhile, Russian mass media representatives have broken into the media space. Their versions of what is happening are even worse than the press releases of the Armenian police. Reporters of Russian “RTR,” “Channel One,” “Ren TV,” and “Lifenews” have already spotted in Yerevan “the hand of the West,” “American money,” “a Ukrainian scenario,” “EU flags and banderovtsy,” “knives and brass knuckles” in demonstrators' hands; and, according to them, the police's water cannons and batons were just “a response to the protesters' attacks.”

This has become a subject for local media and news-makers. They have to talk about the content of the Russian media, and even refute them sometimes. Protesters on Baghramyan Avenue often approach Russian journalists and plainly ask them not to lie. They listen, responding “we have heard you,” “everybody has their own view,” “do you have any concrete facts?” before walking away.

Positive and negative comparisons with the Ukrainian Maidan have firmly entered the materials of local and foreign media and experts.

Presently, the local press, citing rumors and “reliable sources,” reports that the Armenian president has decided not to increase the price of electricity. As for “Electric Networks of Armenia” and its debt of USD 250 million, according to Armenian media, Samvel Karapetyan, Russian-based billionaire of Armenian descent, is planning to buy the company from the Russian “Inter RAO.”

Yuri M.