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Demonstrators Block Central Yerevan, Police Give Six Hours to ‘Voluntarily End Illegal Protest’

Hundreds of people protesting against the latest hike in electricity prices in Armenia took to the streets on September 11 blocking once again the central Marshal Baghramyan Avenue in Yerevan. They held a rally at Yerevan’s Freedom Square earlier in the day before marching toward the presidential palace late Friday. 

The protesters, however, were stopped by a police cordon and special equipment which had been lined up at the avenue in advance. Faced with a police wall and unable to move further toward the presidential residence, the people sat on the ground initiating a renewed sit-in protest. 

Police periodically ordered the demonstrators through loudspeakers to leave the carriageway, warned about the “illegal nature of the protest action, the violation of the constitutional rights of other citizens” and threatened to use force in case of disobedience. In return, the protesters booed the law enforcement officers and reminded them of their duties – to protect the people’s right to peaceful protest.

The participants again stated the protest movement had no leaders and urged other citizens and journalists to join them since “a brutal dispersal can only be prevented by a fairly large number of people.”

Maksim Sargsyan, member of “No to Plunder!” initiative, voiced their demand that authorities annul the decision of increasing the “already overpriced electricity tariffs.” He also added that Baghramyan Avenue had this time been blocked by police officers, while protesters had only intended to march through it toward the presidential palace.  

Their other demand, the activist stated, was a fair investigation into the violent dispersal by police of the peaceful demonstration on June 23. “We demand high-ranking police officials be punished; otherwise, they, as always, will make scapegoats of lower ranking officers,” Sargsyan said mentioning, specifically, Armenian Deputy Chief of Police, General Levon Yeranosyan who personally supervised the police officers’ actions during the brutal summer dispersals.

Police have released a statement urging “the organizers and participants of the unauthorized rally to express their demands by 5 am September 12 and to voluntarily end the illegal blockage of Baghramyan Avenue.” 

As of 1 am local time the majority of protesters remain seated; other are dancing and singing patriotic songs.