YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Armenians protesting the policies of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili against the Armenian population of Javakhk came to blows with police Thursday as the Georgian leader ended his trip with a visit to Dzidzernagapert.
Demonstrators gathered at the Armenia Marriott Hotel, where Saakashvili was staying on his two-day visit to Armenia, to address the concerns regarding the treatment of the Armenian population of Javakhk by the Georgian authorities.
Among the many demonstrating against Tbilisi’s policies in Javakhk was Armenian Revolutionary Federation Political Director Giro Manoyan, who came to blows with police after a heated argument. Manoyan resisted the police and by putting his arms around a post in defiance of the police. When protesters came to assist Manoyan, a scuffle broke out with the police, reported the A1-Plus news agency.
“I was not participating in the demonstration, which was organized by Javakhk Armenians living in the Republic of Armenia, with the cooperation of several youth and non-governmental organizations. But soon after the rally had started, I received calls from a couple of participants that the police are pushing and shoving everyone and trying to disperse them,” Manoyan explained. “Because our office is very close to the Republic Square, I went to assist in resolving the issue, but was not successful. The police did not agree to my suggestion to let the demonstrators, peaceful in the strictest sense of the word, move towards the National Art Gallery, which is about 100 or so meters away from Marriott Armenia, where Saakashvili was, but still visible from the hotel.
Instead, the Yerevan police forcefully pushed the dozens of protesters out of Republic Square and onto North Avenue then blocked the entrance onto the square. Eyewitnesses reported that protesters were dragged away from the site by police, who wanted to clear the entrance to the hotel. “It was apparent that the police did not want any demonstrator to be seen on the square,” Manoyan noted.
“The police reaction to the demonstration was not warranted,” said Manoyan. “But I think with their excessive action, the police helped the demonstrators gain more exposure than they would have otherwise.”
Just as the police were clearing the entrance to the hotel, a protester, using a bullhorn, read out loud the letter addressed to Saakashvili, highlighting demands to give the Armenian Church legal status, end the Georgification of Armenian churches, end the intimidation of Armenians from various national and state authorities and respect the rights of Javakhk Armenians as Georgian citizens. Other demands also included reforms in education, the creation of the Armenian-Georgian university and an end to the arrests of Armenian activists in the area.
Saakashvili left the hotel for Dzidzernagapert some 20 minutes after the demonstrators were dispersed, running hours behind schedule.
” The important thing is that Saakashvili was aware that people were demonstrating against his policies regarding Armenians in Georgia in general, and in Javakhk specifically.”