Ter-Petrosian set a new deadline for President Serzh Sarkisian as thousands of his supporters again rallied in Yerevan’s Liberty Square in defiance of a government ban. Riot police again let the crowd enter the square after a brief conversation with HAK representatives.
In a repeat of events that unfolded during a March 17 opposition rally in Yerevan, police today stepped aside to allow loyalists to Levon Ter-Petrosian to enter Liberty Square, although City Hall had turned down the Armenian National Congress’s application to stage a protest there.
Once gathered in the yard of the Opera House, the large crowd heard various leaders, including statements from a former prime minister, Hrant Bagratyan, say that “revolution is inevitable”.
Gathering at around 6 p.m. at Matenadaran, up the hill from Liberty Square, the crowd marched down Mashtots Avenue and onto the grounds of the square, after discussion with authorities who had ordered it barricaded by police.
Near 9 p.m., Ter-Petrosian took his turn at the podium to deliver his 35-minute speech, Ter-Petrosian insisted that the Sarkisian administration free all political prisoners, agree to an objective inquiry into the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan and guarantee opposition access to Liberty Square. He said all three demands must be satisfied before the next HAK rally scheduled for April 28.
“If that does not take place, then the Armenian National Congress (HAK) will consider the possibility of dialogue [with the authorities] to have been exhausted and will be compelled to drastically change its tactic and the character of activities,” he said, triggering “Levon!” chants from the crowd.
“We are still not inclined talk to the authorities in the language of ultimatums,” added Ter-Petrosian. “But the people’s patience has limits. Therefore, April 28 must be either a day of the beginning of dialogue or a day of the final watershed between the authorities and the public.”
The HAK leader did not specify whether he is prepared to launch the kind of non-stop protests that followed the disputed presidential election of February 2008. He already issued what he called a “last warning” to the Armenian authorities on March 1.
Ter-Petrosian’s right-hand man, Levon Zurabian, spoke of “resolute actions” which he said would “make the authorities sober up.”
“We are calling on the people to start today a nationwide preparation for the launch of a campaign of civil disobedience across Armenia. And let nobody doubt that the people’s patience is running out,” Zurabian told the crowd before it marched to Liberty Square.
Zurabian said the authorities have still not met any of the demands voiced by the HAK since the launch of its campaign of antigovernment demonstrations on February 18.
The campaign, clearly inspired by the anti-government revolts in several Arab states, rapidly gained momentum, with the number of HAK demonstrators steadily growing in the course of last month.