Notes From Hairenik
March 21, 2008

Today marks the first day of a new era in the Republic of Armenia’s brief history. The nation managed to survive a 20-day state of emergency without further unrest and upheaval. Late this afternoon people took to the streets once again, but this time to commemorate the events of March 1 with a vigil and peaceful march, which began at the top of Northern Boulevard across from the Opera House and ended at the intersection of Grigor Lyusavorich and Italy Streets, the site where the chaos unfolded.

I cannot guess the number of people who were walking—there were several thousand marchers without a doubt. At some areas along the way people were standing in single file about a meter apart from one another or a bit less, holding candles and wearing black ribbons. Some of the marchers were holding photocopied pictures of political prisoners, mainly those who were arrested during the last few weeks, and also victims of the violence. I was standing in place at the bottom of Northern Boulevard where it merges with Abovyan Street with several dozen others in the row of silent vigil commemorators. The row continued with gaps along the way down Abovyan Street into Republic Square and then Vasken Sargsyan Street, where it ended at the intersection of Khorenatsi Street. Troops of riot police were stomping about, across Republic Square towards the Opera House as well as in the opposite direction where the people were headed. Along the perimeter of the Opera House were rows of riot police, shields and truncheons in hand. A few could be seen on street corners watching the crowd while smoking cigarettes, and by the looks on their faces they seemed to have been wondering why they were there in the first place. There were I would say at least a hundred riot policemen in front of the monument across from City Hall. The crowd kept moving the whole time; they did not conglomerate en masse at any spot from what I observed, as I managed to follow the marchers at one point during the two-hour long event which lasted from 5:00-7:00 pm. There were no clashes, people simply moved onward peacefully.

I was there not to give importance to any politician or cult of personality but rather to show my support for the citizens of this country, as I believe everyone there was doing. I think the important thing is that people were undeterred by the state of emergency and they are still willing to demonstrate that they expect more of their government and own society. They expect to live in a just, lawful country where intimidation and suppression of civil liberties cannot be tolerated. And their will is intact.

Having said all that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted some arrests and minor incidents that I obviously was not aware of. You can read about what happened here.

Also see this page.

Top and bottom photos courtesy of mk.am.

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7 Comments:
Anonymous Nanul said...
Thank you Christian. That's what we need to show---we want to live in a lawful country, and we need to stand up for our civil liberties.

Blogger nazarian said...
I have such mixed feelings nowadays. I am proud that people are willing to go through such sacrifices to remain free - some of them even paid the ultimate price for that.

And on the other hand I am ashamed that the ones who prevent these freedoms and kill my fellow Armenians are ethnically Armenian as well.

I don't know how to categorize this - should I consider the regime as bad Armenians, bottom feeders or what. I still don't have an answer.

A couple of days ago there was a photo on Radio Liberty - a soldier was sitting down and there were two ladies sitting near him. It would have been a sweet photo if the soldier was not carrying an assault rifle and if there was no 100% certainty that he would murder these two ladies if he got the order to do so, and if I didn't know that such an order was a distinct possibility

Blogger Hovanes said...
I am for showing protest in civil manner, however I am against Levon and his goons hijacking it and taking credit for it. The organizers of this event claimed it was "neutral", it sure didn't feel that way.

And once again we saw lies and disinformation being spread by people there. When we arrived at the beginning of Northern Avenue there was a group of people standing with pictures. I was with a member of press who had a badge on. As soon these people saw the badge they surrounded us and started telling these stories of how the police beat the people up near Markaryan hospital, and how busloads of people were arrested and carried away, and how a French reporter was brutally beaten up... In short an old and very familiar pattern of spreading lies and disinformation that is somewhat primitive, but works in Armenia.

And a couple of words regarding RFE/RL coverage, for anyone who is still naive enough to think that they have a neutral stand on this issue and report the news objectively:

"The protest began spontaneously..."

Come on give me a break, spontaneously? It was organized well in advance, people knew about it days beforehand. It was on web pages, on blog sites. It was anything but spontaneous.

"Police cordoned off major squares in downtown Yerevan and used force to stop about 2,000 opposition supporters marching through the city center following the lifting of a 20-day state of emergency on Friday."

Once again they are trying to credit LTP. This was supposed to be neutral protest, there were many people that didn't support opposition but went there to mourn the loss of life.

"One passerby told RFE/RL that she saw more than a dozen men forced into a police van and driven away."

Very professional, why not take everything any passerby says and publish it in the paper or broadcast it over the airways without checking it?

All in all, as the reporter I was with said (and I agree) this attempt by opposition to reignite the mass rallies and demonstrations was a failure.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Thanks for the comment Hovik. I agree with all the points you made.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hovanes,

It was spontaneous in the fact that people didn't have to bused in like at Sargsyan rallies. It was spontaneous in the fact that news of the protest spread through word of moput, the internet and other alternative media, and not the official press. And this just one day after the State of Emergency was lifted. You just like to knit pick and use these minor technacalities to besmeerch all those who came to pay their respects to the dead and injured and to tell this bloody regime that they are no longer willing to accept anotyer five years of mediocre governance at best and a corrupt one at the very worst.(Ramik)

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
Ramik, you need a dictionary. Spontaneity happens at a moment in time and not leading up to an event through publicity.

spon·ta·ne·ous

1. coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained; unplanned: a spontaneous burst of applause.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey Onik,

I guess the only thing that will satisfy you and other fence sitters is if people in Armenia communicated through telepathy. Now there's spontaneity for you!!!(Ramik)

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