YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—President Sarkisian, during a campaign stop to the city’s Mashdots Park, which has been the setting of tense clashes between environmentalists and police during recent months, ordered the Yerevan Mayor to remove controversially-build booths, which are at the center of the more than three-month long protests.
Sarkisian, who was accompanied by the Yerevan Mayor Taron Markaryan, said that it “would be the appropriate decision” for the Markaryan to “find a way to dismantle all this,” pointing to the dozen or so booths that have been constructed in the park.
“You’ve done everything right,” he told Markarian with television cameras pointing at the officials. “You were right in the sense that you made a temporary decision. In two or three years all this would have to be removed from here. But, my dear Taron, as you can see, this doesn’t look so nice.”
Sarkisian’s visit to the park and his order ended a more than three month standoff between Yerevan city authorities, the police and a group of daily demonstrators who were protesting the continued obstruction of green space in the city. In an effort to remove peddlers from Yerevan’s main Abovyan Street, Markaryan ordered the booths to be moved to Mashdots Park temporarily—for three years.
The clashes with the police and the mostly peaceful protesters have been tense, with the worst one taking place Sunday, when seven protesters were detained and two suffered injuries that required hospitalization.
Last month the protesters were joined by prominent public figures who tried to physically tear down the booths. These led to clashes with police and outcry from the public and protesters.
With only five days left before Armenia’s parliamentary elections, one cannot but wonder about the timing of Sarkisian’s decision to beautify Yerevan.