Armenian youth activists scheduled no fresh protests against a recent electricity price increase after riot police forcibly broke up early on Saturday their latest demonstration staged on a central Yerevan avenue.
Several hundred members and supporters of the youth movement No To Plunder re-occupied a section of Marshal Bagramian Avenue on Friday evening to demand that the price hike be formally annulled. Only some 60 protesters remained there by the time riot police used force to unblock the street in the early hours of the following morning.
About 50 of them were detained during the pre-dawn crackdown. They all were set free by Saturday evening. No To Plunder was in no rush to resume street protests afterwards.
“None of us wants to just take to the streets, hold a demonstration with a few people, get arrested and be proud of that,” one of the group’s leaders, Maxim Sargsian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Sunday. “We don’t need to do things that are ends in themselves.”
Sargsian added that the activists are now looking for ways of “mobilizing people.” They will therefore set no dates for their next rally for the time being, he added.
The remarks reflected No To Plunder’s failure to pull a large crowd on Friday. The number of protesters on Marshal Bagramian Avenue was a far cry from thousands of people who took part in the first “Electric Yerevan” movement launched in late June. Those nonstop protests forced the Armenian government to subsidize electricity supplies to households.
No To Plunder wants the authorities to go further and make sure that businesses and other corporate consumers do not pay more for energy.
The non-partisan group was until recently anxious to distance itself from opposition parties and emphasize the “non-political” character of its campaign. But on Saturday it joined an alliance of about three dozen opposition and civic groups formed to campaign against controversial constitutional changes planned by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Maxim Sargsian confirmed that No To Plunder will also fight against the constitutional reform. “We have said right from the beginning that we are against the so-called reform,” he said.