YEREVAN (A.W.)—Violence erupted on Mashtots Avenue on Nov. 5 as dozens of protesters clashed with police. The demonstration was sparked by a call for revolution by activist Shant Harutyunyan.
As over a hundred protesters gathered to embark on what police say was an “unauthorized” march to the Presidential Palace, they encountered resistance by law enforcement officials. Some of the activists hurled small gas-filled bottles that exploded upon impact. Others swung wooden batons at officers. Reportedly, up to 200 law-enforcement officials—including Special Forces and SWAT teams—were deployed to the scene. Some 20 activists were arrested, including Harutyunyan, while around ten police officers suffered injuries.
Just before clashes with the police, Harutyunyan told journalists that he and his supporters were prepared to fight until the last man. He said they were armed with homemade explosives, batons, and rocks, among other things.
Harutyunyan began a sit-in at Liberty Square on Oct. 31, next to a propped up sign that read, “I Am Starting a Revolution.”
Many among the protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks, a symbol of resistance, as well as the face of activists who identify themselves as Anonymous. The group Anonymous has no leader, and is made up of activists and hacktivists who work collectively towards a certain goal while maintaining anonymity. In recent years, activists around the world have designated Nov. 5—the anniversary of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and an attempt to assassinate King James I of England—as a day of protest against repression and injustice. This year, activists worldwide called for a Million Mask March through social networking sites. The “Heghapokhoutyun” (Revolution) Facebook page was set up in mid-September, posting content aimed at inspiring revolution, and quotes from Harutyunyan.
Earlier in the week, in an interview with CivilNet, Harutyunyan said, “Are there those in this population of three million who are prepared to take risks, to make sacrifices, and to endanger their own lives in order to protect a dignified life and a dignified death? I don’t know whether there are such people… but I imagine that if I am one such man, there must be others. And if there are such people, they will come and join me and pick up a bottle of gasoline. I have two hands and the most I can lift are two bottles of gasoline, and that I will do. But if I had 200 hands, I’d lift 200 bottles of gasoline…”
In an interview with Kentron TV in August, Harutyunyan talked about a “Revolution of Values” that the country needed, and said that among those who had played a formative role in the development of his ideas were Njdeh, Napoleon, Hitler, and Nietzsche. On multiple occasions he has invoked the French Revolution as inspiration, as well as the principles of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” He has been outspoken in his criticism of the Armenian government, which he considers a “slave” of the Kremlin.