The United States Embassy in Armenia has issued a notice to its citizens in Yerevan that a local opposition rally and subsequent march can “turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence without warning.”
The “Demonstration Notice” that appeared on the Embassy's website today informs U.S. citizens in Armenia about planned activities in Yerevan, which is an authorized political rally of the country’s main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) to be held in Liberty Square on Friday night. The rally is expected to be followed by a march through some of the central streets of Yerevan.
“We remind U. S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence without warning. You should avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and exercise caution when in the vicinity of any demonstrations. Stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of your surroundings,” the U.S. Embassy said.
The notice also says U.S. citizens should “exercise caution and consider alternative routes to avoid the downtown area during the march, as it may create traffic disruptions.”
Armenia’s police on Friday confirmed to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they were aware of the U.S. Embassy’s “Demonstration Notice”, but had no information about any plans to deliberately instigate clashes or violence during the upcoming rally or march in Yerevan. The local police force gave assurances that they would do their utmost to maintain public order in the city.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy’s Press Office told RFE/RL’s Armenia service (Azatutyun.am) that similar notices for U.S. citizens have been issued also before and in fact were a matter of routine ahead of every political rally in the city.
Even so, this is the first time that local media have actively cited the U.S. Embassy’s notice.
Addressing thousands of his supporters at last Friday’s rally in Yerevan, HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian offered a “reasonable” compromise deal to Armenia’s political leadership, but also vowed to ratchet up pressure on the government for concessions. Ter-Petrosian also urged his supporters to turn out at the next protest in much larger numbers.