23 հունիս, 2015 08:06

Electricity Protest in Yerevan Turns Violent as Police Use Water Canons to Disperse Crowds

prot Police use water canons to disperse protestors in Yerevan.

Dozens of protesters have been injured and even more arrested as a demonstration protesting electricity rate hikes in the heart of Armenia’s capital turns violent.

After staging a three-day sit-in at Liberty Square in the capital Yerevan, demonstrators who were protesting electricity rate hikes approved by the country’s Public Services Regulatory Commission days earlier, marched toward the Presidential Palace located on Baghramyan Avenue on June 22.

They were warned by Yerevan’s Deputy Police Chief Valeri Osipyan that their march was illegal and that they would be met by police resistance. Not heeding the Police Chief’s admonitions, the demonstrators began walking toward the Presidential Palace. They were met with riot police who had blocked Baghramyan.

Security forces were out in full force along with water canons and other machinery. Faced with the heavy police presence, organizers of the protest decided to continue their sit-in on Baghramyan Avenue.

The protesters were chanting “We are the owners of our country,” and calling on police forces to join them. Deputy Police Chief Osipyan was negotiating with the organizers of the protest to move and was attempting to disperse the crowds. He told the protesters that President Serzh Sargsyan was ready to meet with a delegation to discuss the situation, which was repeatedly refused by organizers.

pic2As the protest dragged on late into the night, the hundreds of demonstrators on Baghramyan were singing and dancing, calling on residents of Yerevan to join them. The protesters were warned that according to city ordinance, any music or noise after 11:00 PM would not be allowed. Osipyan said that police had received numerous complaints regarding the noise. Organizers, however, said that residents of the surrounding buildings had signed a petition saying they were supporting the protest.

At approximately 1:00 AM, the city turned off the streetlights on Baghramyan. In the meantime, the police were trying to convince the demonstrators to continue their protest in Liberty Square. After a lengthy discussion among the members of the protest, it was decided that they would not move and continue their protest on Baghramyan.

Protesters eventually quieted down. Most were lying on the street while others were quietly talking.

As dawn broke, riot police backed by water canons began moving toward the crowd. As demonstrators braced themselves,  the water canons began spraying them, tossing them around like rag dolls. In the meantime, civilian police officers began dragging people away. Protesters were chanting “Free, Independent Armenia.”

Dozens of people were injured in the melee including a number of journalists. According to azatutyun.am, reporters and cameramen were not spared in the violence. Several media organizations had their equipment confiscated and damaged.

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The Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) unanimously voted to increase tariffs by approximately 7AMD/kWh on June 17.

On May 8, the Russian-managed Armenian Electric Networks Company applied to Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission to increase electricity rates by 17AMD. The electric company stated that had amassed huge debt and needed, therefore, to increase rates for Armenians consumers.