Thousands of people again took to the streets of Yerevan on Sunday following the arrest of Nikol Pashinian and other organizers of daily protests against Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
The angry protests broke out spontaneously in several parts of the capital despite heightened police presence at two key squares and several other locations.
Hundreds of security forces were deployed at Republic Square, the main protest venue, shortly after Pashinian and two other opposition lawmakers were detained in the morning. They repeatedly tried to clear the square of protesters, detaining at least two dozen of them in the process. Hundreds of people managed to rally there early in the afternoon, however.
Thousands of others marched through major streets in and around the city center in the meantime. Security forces did not attempt to disperse them.
Protesters also gathered outside a police station in the city’s southern Shengavit district where two the detained opposition lawmakers, Sasun Mikaelian and Ararat Mirzoyan, were reportedly held. They argued with police officers guarding the entrance to the building.
The crowd grew bigger in the afternoon, blocking a street adjacent to the police station at one point. Police reinforcements rushed to the site did not immediately manage to unblock the street occupied by several hundred protesters demanding the release of the oppositionists.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General defended the arrest of Pashinian’s Mirzoyan and Mikaelian, saying that they have organized unsanctioned rallies and urged supporters to block streets and entrances to state buildings. It claimed that participants of those gatherings also assaulted police officers.
A statement by the prosecutors did not say whether they will press any criminal charges against the three lawmakers. They need the Armenian parliament’s permission for doing so. Without such permission, parliament deputies cannot be held in custody for more than three days.
Despite his detention, Pashinian was able to take to Facebook and again urge supporters to converge on Republic Square at 7 p.m. He said the arrests have not paralyzed his movement.
According to the police, a total of 192 people were taken into custody by 3 p.m.