At least 169 people were detained in Yerevan on Friday as the Armenian police tried to stop opposition supporters from again blocking streets in protest against Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
The protests mainly involving young people resumed in various parts of the Armenian capital in the morning following opposition leader Nikol Pashinian’s calls for a “total blockade” of streets as well as roads leading to the city.
Hundreds of protesters led by Pashinian marched through Yerevan’s northern and western districts, urging Armenians to “reject Serzh” and again rally in central Republic Square in the evening. They were greeted by many bystanders and car drivers honking their horns in response to Pashinian’s appeal to “beep if you are against Serzh.” Many car horns reverberated throughout the city.
One of the city’s main bridges was blocked by three heavy trucks when the crowd reached early in the afternoon. The truck drivers left their vehicles parked there and joined the Pashinian-led march.
“We want to stand with our young people,” one of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We want a good life for our children.”
Meanwhile, smaller groups of Pashinian supporters tried to shut down traffic in several other parts of Yerevan. They were confronted by riot police keen to keep the roads open. Dozens of protesters were detained as a result.
Several hundred employees one of the country’s largest information technology firms, Synopsys Armenia, went on strike and blocked a major street adjacent to their company’s offices. Police intervened to reopen Arshakuniats Avenue to traffic 30 minutes later.
Synopsys engineers were joined by other protesters later in the afternoon. More than two hundred students marched unimpeded through downtown Yerevan in the meantime.
According to the police, the total number of detainees stood at 169 as of 2 p.m. local time. RFE/RL correspondents witnessed two dozen people bundled into police vans, personal cars and even public buses used by the police. Plainclothes policemen were also involved in the operation.
The police defended the detentions, saying that the protesters are not legally allowed to block streets and law-enforcement officers have to restore “public order.” A police statement warned that failure to obey officers’ orders will lead to “negative legal consequences.”
More than a hundred protesters were detained and kept in police custody for several hours on Wednesday.