Armenia’s opposition, which has organised over a month of continuous protests has vacated Yerevan’s France Square. They had set up an encampment on the central Yerevan roundabout when the protests first began in early May.
The tents were removed in the early hours of 15 June.
In a rally on Tuesday evening, when the dismantlement was announced, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a prominent opposition MP and protest leader, announced that the protest movement will continue until the ‘ultimate’ goal, that is, removing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan from power, is achieved.
The parliamentary opposition, composed of MPs from the Armenia Alliance and I Have Honour blocs have refused to participate in the Parliament sessions, instead choosing to throw their weight behind continuous protests which kicked off on 1 May. At the time, they vowed not to leave the streets until Pashinyan resigned.
On Tuesday, Saghatelyan said that keeping the tents in the France Square was no longer important, and the movement’s future was no longer dependent on the tents. Opposition leaders announced more marches and rallies for the coming week.
Despite dismantling the tents, he said, opposition MPs will not return to parliament and have stated they will keep up street protests and ‘talking about the Armenia’ they say they will ‘represent’ when they come to power.
The opposition has been demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation since mid-April, when the latter hinted at being ready for concessions on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinyan had said that by ‘lowering the bar’ on demands for status Armenia would gain ‘consolidation’ among the international community.
According to the Union of Informed Citizens, an Armenia-based democracy watchdog, the number of protesters, in rare cases, exceeded ten thousand — though that was only in the first days of the protests.
Despite the month-long mobilization, Armenia’s political leadership appeared to actively ignore the opposition and rarely addressed the protests or the protesters. One such mention occurred during a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan, with the latter telling the former that the protests do not enjoy strong ‘public support’.
[Read more: Armenia's opposition appeals to Lavrov]
The encampment in its first days. Photo: Tamuna Chkareuli
Along with the violent rhetoric, the protests were often accompanied by clashes and the use of violence by both police and protesters.
Since the protests began over two dozen criminal cases were initiated involving police officers who used excessive force against demonstrators, on x-date Armenia’s Human Rights Defender condemned the use of ‘disproportionate’ force by Police when detaining protesters.
Dozens of protesters have also been charged for violence committed against police officers, especially after violent clashes on 3 June, in which 50 people were injured of whom 39 were police officers.
In one moment caught on camera during the clashes that day, a protester can be seen attacking a police officer with a sledgehammer.