Seven people were detained in Yerevan on Thursday as police stopped dozens of cars from approaching the city center in a fresh demonstration held by their owners against what they see as extremely heavy fines for traffic violations.
A pressure group called Get Out of Our Pockets began campaigning against these rules earlier this year, getting its supporters to take to the streets and drive their cars through the city’s main thoroughfares in organized motorcades.
Their demands include a five-fold reduction of fines imposed by the road police for violations documented by a growing number of surveillance cameras with radars installed across Armenia. They want the Armenian government to also annul the payment of fines pending against thousands of motorists, many of them taxi drivers.
Another demand of the group is a complete abolition of a new parking system which was introduced in Yerevan last September. The system mainly covering the city center placed a heavier financial burden car owners. It is being enforced by a private firm that gets as much as 70 percent of parking fees collected electronically.
The government has so far only agreed to cut the speeding fines by half. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian portrayed this as a major concession to the campaigners on Tuesday. The latter dismissed Abrahamian’s announcement, however, insisting that their demands be met in full.
A procession of cars organized by Get Out of Our Pockets was blocked by traffic police just outside downtown Yerevan as it sought to approach the prime minister’s office in the city’s main Republic Square. Police officers said the demonstration would cause traffic jams and urged its participants to drive away from the center. The protesters refused to do that.
Riot police units led by Valeri Osipian, a deputy chief of Yerevan’s police department, arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, randomly arresting 7 drivers to unblock the street. They also towed away and impounded six cars.
Leaders of the protest movement said they will rally more motorists in a similar fashion in the coming days.