YEREVAN—Tensions between police and protesters escalated on Wednesday on Khorenatsi Street, where law enforcement authorities have closed off roads leading to a police station that was seized Sunday morning by a group calling itself “Daredevils of Sasoun,” bringing the standoff into its fifth day.
Beginning at around 4:30 a.m. local time Thursday, some 20 to 25 protesters were arrested and dragged across the street by law enforcement beyond the riot police barricade in place to bloc access to the seized station, after demonstrators were asked to clear the Khorentasi Street to allow traffic to flow. The arrested demonstrators allegedly did not adhere to police directives.
Despite please for calm by higher ranking police officers, some demonstrators were beaten immediately after being taken beyond the police barricade.
Earlier Wednesday evening,at around 10 p.m., police began firing stun grenades into the crowd, as demonstrators that have gathered there since late Sunday, attempted to approach barricade.
Several members of the crowd began throwing stones and bottles at the police, prompting the firing of flares at the direction of the protesters in an effort to disperse the protesters, who retreated but did not vacate the premises.
Police rejected protesters demands to deliver food and water to members of the “Daredevils of Sasoun” who are holding four hostages and are reportedly refusing food provided by the police for fear of being poisoned.
This was the second day of clashes between protesters and police. On Tuesday night, protesters and residents who had gathered at the Sari Tagh section of the Erebuni district, directly above the seized police station clashed with law enforcement when the latter tried to dismantle makeshift barricades set up by area residents to prevent access to the station.
On Wednesday, Armenian authorities said that they do not plan to storm the Yerevan police station Armenia’s National Security Service said that it is still in negotiations with the “Daredevils of Sasoun,”according to Azatutyun.am.
“Special units of Armenia’s law-enforcement bodies remain at their highest state of readiness, but there are no prerequisites necessary for their active operations for the time being,” the NSS announced in a press statement.
United States Condemns Attack
United States State Department condemned the seizure of the Yerevan police station and urged Armenian law enforcement authorities to show restraint with the 18 men holding four police officers hostage.
“[W]e offer our thoughts and prayers to the families of the police officers who were killed or injured during – I think the incident took place Sunday in Yerevan’s Erebuni district. We obviously condemn strongly the use of violence to effect political change in Armenia or anywhere. We encourage Armenian authorities to handle the situation with appropriate restraint, but again, our condolences go out to those police officers who lost their lives in the attack,” said department spokesperson Mark Toner on July 19.
When asked if the United States is concerned if the attempted military coup in Turkey may be inspiring people of neighboring countries to resort to similar methods, Toner said that using force to overthrow a democratically elected government is “always a bad idea.” “We want to see political change through democratic processes. And so we would certainly want to caution anybody who thinks that violence is a plausible way to achieve any political aims,” Toner said.