The HAK decided earlier this summer to resume its regular street demonstrations in the capital on September 17. Some of its senior figures have spoken of a new opposition push for leadership change in Armenia.
Representatives of the opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian formally notified the Yerevan municipality of their plans to hold the rally in Liberty Square, the main traditional venue for political gatherings in the country.
Under Armenian law, failure to ban the protest would amount to its automatic authorization by municipal authorities. The latter did not immediately respond to the notification.
The square facing the city’s massive Opera House was the scene of ten-day non-stop demonstrations that were organized by Ter-Petrosian following the disputed presidential election of February 2008. A pre-dawn police assault on an opposition tent camp there sparked vicious clashes between opposition protesters and security forces elsewhere in central Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008. Ten people were killed and more than 200 others injured in the violence.
Armenia -- Police detain an opposition supporter near Yerevans Liberty Square, 31May 2010.
Liberty Square was dug up and closed to the public several months later, ostensibly because of the construction of a large underground parking garage by an Italian construction firm. The HAK has had to rally supporters in a less convenient and smaller square in the city center since then.
Small groups of HAK activists and supporters have tried unsuccessfully to gather in the square immediately after it was reopened for public access in late May. More than two dozen of them were detained in scuffles with riot police that lasted for several days. HAK leaders denounced the police actions as illegal.
In a written statement, the HAK warned that “there can be no legal grounds for banning the event.” It did not specify whether the opposition bloc will go ahead with the rally if the municipal administration refuse to sanction it.
A senior police official claimed in May that the Armenian authorities want to make the square permanently off-limits to the opposition. “Do you remember the time when they pitched tents and set bonfires in the square?” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Do you want a repeat of that situation?”