Groups of protesters began the blockages at 8 a.m. local time in an attempt to disrupt traffic and step up pressure on Pashinian’s government. Opposition leaders claimed to have blocked more than 50 streets in various parts of the capital.
Riot police stepped in to unblock the streets, clashing with protesters and detaining many of them. The police reported a total of 414 arrests in the afternoon, a daily record high since the start of the Armenian opposition’s “civil disobedience” campaign on May 1.
The protesters included members of Armenia’s parliament affiliated with its two opposition groups leading the campaign. Security forces tried to detain one of them, Tadevos Avetisian, but let him go after finding out that he is a parliament deputy.
“This is not policing. This is hooliganism,” charged Lilit Galstian, another opposition lawmaker taking part in the protests.
Some citizens also condemned the police actions as they watched the dramatic scenes in the city center. They argued that the protests are peaceful.
“Nothing [wrong] was happening,” one woman told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “But they just rounded up [protesters] and took them away.”
The authorities insisted that the police restored public order and did not use disproportionate forces.
Mobile phone videos posted on social media showed dozens of defiant opposition supporters chanting anti-Pashinian slogans inside a police bus and a police station in Yerevan. They and all other detainees were expected to be released a few hours later.
Ishkhan Saghatelian, an opposition leader, urged supporters to leave the streets at 11:30 a.m. and gather in the city’s France Square, the site of an opposition tent camp, in the evening.
“We have fully accomplished the task set by us,” Saghatelian said in a video message broadcast on Facebook. “We have demonstrated that the people are in control of the situation.”
Saghatelian said earlier that the opposition objective is to create “diarchy” that would make Pashinian’s resignation inevitable.
The prime minister and his political allies have rejected the opposition demands for his resignation fuelled by his recent statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.