Saturday, 1 March 2008

Police Disperse Protesters in Armenia (1) - Breaking News

*For more UPDATES - HERE and HERE

RFE/RL reports that currently spontaneous rally is taking place in front of French embassy in Yerevan. Protesters shout "Freedom", "Levon". Despite police warnings, more people are joining the protest. Reports are now coming up on clashes between police and protesters.

ArmInfo reports that police cordoned off the office of pro-opposition news outlet A1+. They do not allow journalists to enter or leave the building. Right now it is impossible to access A1+ website - A1+ is the main source of information on opposition movement.

This info was later on denied by A1+. A representative from A1+ confirmed to Panorama that police did not block their office and their work. (168 zham)

*UPDATE 10 - more dramatic photos via Hetq Online

*UPDATE 9 - first pictures from Yerevan (via A1+, ArmeniaNow, RFE/RL)

Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian was reportedly placed under house arrest early Saturday after the Armenian police and other security services used force to disperse his supporters camped in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
According to eyewitnesses, scores of police, interior troops and other security forces surrounded the square at around 7 a.m. and began dispersing the small crowd, using truncheons, tear gas and electric-shock equipment. Dozens of demonstrators and security officers were said to have been injured in the violent scene which apparently lasted for about 30 minutes.[...]

ArmeniaNow reports:
"People who were on the scene at Liberty Square have told ArmeniaNow that at about 5 a.m. news stirred in the camp that an action by law enforcement was imminent.
At around 6 a.m. troops were seen being delivered to the site.
According to sources, Levon Ter-Petrosyan was in the camp at that time and addressed the crowd (estimated at around 1,000), asking that his followers not give authorities a reason to act.
But some among the crowd began to take up rocks and sticks and other items, and a general unease stirred.
Two rows of riot police moved in with shields. The second row carried batons and began dispersing the group.
The site remained quiet until about 9 a.m., but as news spread and spectators came to the area, skirmishes with police broke out. ArmeniaNow witnesses saw pools of blood on nearby sidewalks and police using electric shock devices and beating people with clubs. Photographers were chased from the area and at least one video-camera was seen being beaten. Some people were chased several blocks from the scene.
As of this hour, police and special forces appear to be expanding the perimeter and have closed off streets several blocks around the square."

11 am local time - Levon Ter-Petrosyan gives press conference from his house. now reports that police prevents journalists from entering to Ter-Petrosyan house. However, later Lragir confirmed that journalists were allowed to enter Ter-Petrosyan house.

Conflicting data on numbers of injured - from several people to hundreds. Around 20 police cars cordoned off house of MP Khachatur Sukiasyan, well known businessman and Ter-Petrosyan supporter.

A1+: All central streets in Yerevan are full with police forces. People who shout "Levon, Levon" got beaten by police. Police confiscated video cameras from A1+ and other media representatives. A1+ reports on at least 2 opposition supporters who detained by police (sons of Manuk Gasparyan).

Reuters reports that Armenian riot police used truncheons to break up an opposition protest in the capital Yerevan on Saturday, witnesses said. A Reuters correspondent in Freedom Square, scene of the protests, said it was now surrounded by several hundred riot police who were blocking access. A man near the square, who did not want to give his name, said he had been with the protesters when the police arrived. The man's finger was broken.
"We were asleep. They came and they started to beat us up. They had truncheons," he said.

According to A1+ , police dispersion against peaceful protesters started at 6.20 am, and at 6.40 police started beating protesters.

Levon Ter-Pettrosyan is now forcibly taken to his house. No reports on any detained, as yet. Photoreporter of Aravot daily and Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspapers Gagik Shamshyan was assaulted by police.

Organisers claim that they intend to gather rally in Liberty sq at 3pm local time. If not possible, it will take place in Northern avenue, Republic sq, or Shahumyan sq.

According to BBC, "Scuffles broke out as police began forcing the demonstrators on to buses after 10 days of protests against the alleged rigging of the election.[...] Hundreds of police moved against the opposition camp on Freedom Square early on Saturday, dispersing the few hundred protesters still there. Media were kept away from the square as army lorries took away the protesters' tents."

Bekaisa reports of at least 2 cases of protesters injured as a result of police attacks. Also, police broke video camera of Yerkir Media TV company.

According to statment by Levon Ter-Petrosyan team published in (also bekaisa), around five thousand police forces entered Liberty sq and dispersed peaceful protesters. Police forces led by head of incumbent president Robert Kocharyan bodyguard chief Grisha Sargsyan tried to arrest Levon Ter-Petrosyan, but he asked to provide official sanction, which was not given. At the moment Te-Petrosyan is in Liberty sq circled by police. Levon Ter-Petrosyan declared that he will try to continue protests and organise a peaceful rally at 3pm local time as planned.

Here is original Armenian version of that statement:

Այսօր առավոտյան ժամը 7:30-ին [time indicated wrong, everything started around 7 am] մոտ հինգ հազար ոստիկան ներխուժել են Ազատության հրապարակ և ցրել խաղաղ ցուցարարներին: Ոստիկանական ուժերը` Ռոբերտ Քոչարյանի թիկնազորի պետ Գրիշա Սարգսյանի գլխավորությամբ, փորձել են ձերբակալել ՀՀ առաջին նաագահ Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանին: Վերջինս պահանջել է ցույց տալ ձերբակալման սանկցիան, ինչը նրանք չեն արել: Այս պահին Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանը ոստիկաններով շրջապատված գտնվում է Ազատության հրապարակում: Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանի թիմակիցների որոշ մասի գտնվելու վայրը հայտնի չէ: Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանը հայտարարել է, որ փորձելու են այսօր ժամը 15:00-ին շարունակել բողոքի խաղաղ ցույցը:

Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանի նախընտրական շտաբ

Readers of this blog were among the first who alerted about police dispersing protesters.

reading_is_dangerous said...
7:10 AM Perhaps something is happening at the Opera. I just head a lot of noises, and I saw many men running two by two towards the place.

Then Ani provided this AP link

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenian police are dispersing several hundred opposition supporters who have been camping out in the capital for more than a week.
Police early Saturday were detaining the protesters in Yerevan and forcing them into buses.
The opposition has been protesting the Feb. 19 presidential election results and trying to force a new vote.
Officials say Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian — the favored successor of outgoing President Robert Kocharian — won the vote outright. But supporters of opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian have rejected the results, citing fraud.

Regnum has more details (in Russian):

Силы правопорядка разогнали митинг оппозиции в Ереване
Силы правопорядка 1 марта примерно в 7:00 утра по местному времени (6 мск) разогнали митинг оппозиции, который вот уже десятый день собирается на площади "Свободы" в Ереване.
Как сообщает корреспондент ИА REGNUM, в настоящее время весь центр города оцеплен внутренними войсками. Во время разгона митинга на площади находился экс-президент Левон Тер-Петросян, который незадолго призвал собравшихся не вступать в противостояние с полицией. Сейчас полиция занята разбором палаток, в которых ночью оставались митингующие. В момент разгона на площади находилось несколько тысяч человек, на месте можно обнаружить следы крови. Как утверждают очевидцы, полицейские применили дубинки и другие спецсредства. Операция по разгону длилась 10-15 минут.

Brief in English (based on Regnum) - around 7 am local time police started dispersing protesters who were spending 10th night in Liberty sq in Yerevan. There were several thousands protester at the moment of dispersion. Witnesses said that police used batons and other special means, there are traces of blood at the scene. Levon Ter-Petrosyan was in Liberty sq at the moment of dispersion and urged people not get into confrontation with police. The police 'operation' took 10-15 mins. Centre of Yerevan is cordoned off by special forces.


armen said...

You're doing a wonderful job.thnx

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the news items, it's finally made it to the BBC too (about time). It all seemed quite peaceful before and now all of this! it's like Minsk or Beijing. :(
By the way though, i think the police used 'batons' not buttons.

artmika said...

Corrected, thanks. I am sure there will be other misspellings too, it was such a speed... Too painful to write about.

...yeah, only clashes made BBC pay attention to Armenia events :(