YEREVAN—Armenians protesting the policies of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili against the Armenian population of Javakhk clashed with police as the Georgian leader ended his Armenia trip with a visit to Dzidzernagapert on June 25.
Demonstrators gathered near the Armenia Marriott Hotel, where Saakashvili was staying on his two-day visit to Armenia, to address the concerns regarding the treatment of the Armenian population of Javakhk by the Georgian authorities.
However, Yerevan police pushed the dozens of protesters out of Republic Square and onto North Avenue then blocking the entrance onto the square. Eyewitnesses reported that protesters were dragged away from the site by police, who wanted to clear the entrance to the hotel.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation political affairs director Giro Manoyan, who had a heated argument with the police. When protesters came to assist Manoyan, a scuffle broke out with the police, reported the A1-Plus news agency.
Just as the police were clearing the entrance to the hotel, a protester, using a bullhorn, read out loud the letter addressed to Saakashvili, demanding Tbilisi to give the Armenian Church legal status, end the Georgification of Armenian churches, end the intimidation of Armenians from various national and state authorities, and respect the rights of Javakhk Armenians as Georgian citizens.
Saakashvili left the hotel for Dzidzernagapert some 20 minutes after the demonstrators were dispersed, running hours behind schedule.
Manoyan: Police Action Excessive, not Justified
The Armenian Weekly contacted Manoyan asking about the demonstration. He provided the following account:
“The police reaction to the demonstration was not warranted. I was not participating in the demonstration, which was organized by Javakhk Armenians living in the Republic of Armenia, with the cooperation of several youth and non-governmental organizations. But soon after the rally had started, I received calls from a couple of participants that the police is pushing and shoving everyone and trying to disperse them. Because our office is very close to the Republic Square, I went to assist in resolving the issue, but was not successful. The police did not agree to my suggestion to let the demonstrators, peaceful in the strictest sense of the word, move towards the National Art Gallery, which is about 100 or so meters away from Marriott Armenia, where Saakashvili was, but still visible from the hotel. It was apparent that the police did not want any demonstrator to be seen on the square. I think with their excessive action, the police helped the demonstrators gain more exposure than they would have otherwise. The important thing is that Saakashvili was aware that people were demonstrating against his policies regarding Armenians in Georgia in general, and in Javakhk specifically.”