Seven people were detained in Yerevan’s Liberty Square early on Wednesday as police dismantled a small tent camp that was set up there by a radical opposition alliance seeking to topple Armenia’s government.
All of those individuals were set free several hours later.
Small groups of members and supporters of the New Armenia Public Salvation Front have stayed in the square around the clock ever since the alliance began a campaign of anti-government rallies in early December. The sit-in not sanctioned by municipal authorities continued even after the campaign fizzled out due to poor attendance at the protests.
In a statement, the Armenian police claimed that the police confiscated the single tent, a table, heaters and other objects placed in Liberty Square because the protesters drank alcohol and thereby disrupted public order there overnight. The statement said one of the detained individuals is wanted by law-enforcement authorities for theft while another, an underage woman, was questioned by police officers on Tuesday on suspicion of robbery.
“It was obvious that the site of the ‘around-the-clock gathering’ was turned into an area that also attracted individuals with anti-social inclinations,” added the statement.
New Armenia was quick to condemn the police operation as a government “provocation.” One of its leaders, Andrias Ghukasian, said that only three of the detained individuals are New Armenia activists. The four others are government “provocateurs” who were sent to Liberty Square by the police, he claimed.
“Their aim was to dismantle the tent and confiscate objects that allowed citizens to continue the sit-in at night,” Ghukasian told reporters. He warned that the opposition movement will pitch a new tent in the square if the police refuse to return the confiscated items by Wednesday evening.