#ElectricYerevan Electric Rate Hike Protest Continues Despite Violent Mass Arrest

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Armenia – Last week, Electricity Networks of Armenia, the company that owns and manages Armenia’s electricity grid, raised electricity prices for households by 17-22 percent. Already suffering severe economic hardships the tariff rise, which is expected to take effect August 1st, has sparked days of protest.

The protest has been organised through social media by a non-partisan group called “No to Robbery.” “We are masters of our country, we will not allow electricity price hikes, we will not let our people be robbed,” the group said on Facebook.

From an activist friend in yerevan, in the protest zone:

“After three days of sit-in protest and no response from the authorities to the demand of the public to annul the decision on electricity price increase, in the evening of 22nd of June people moved to the president’s office. However, the police blocked their way. They announced that the president is ready to accept 4-5 representatives from the people in his office to negotiate. However, this offer was rejected since the demand was public and therefore there were no 4-5 leaders or organizers, who could be specified and thus meet the president. The people therefore continued their sit-in protest on Baghramyan avenue which leads to the National Assembly, as well as to the president’s office. At around 5.40 in the morning the police used water cannons to disperse the protesters. However, the use of force was excessive, since in addition to dispersing the protesters with water, the police, as well as people in civilian clothes kicked the protesters while detaining them. More than 200 protesters were detained. Among them also journalists, who despite the presence of their badges, were taken to police stations. Their cameras were also intentionally damaged by the police and the people in civilian clothes.”

As dawn broke, riot police backed by water canons began moving toward the crowd. As demonstrators braced themselves, the water canons began spraying them, tossing them around like rag dolls. In the meantime, civilian police officers began dragging people away. “Some 237 demonstrators were detained,” Armen Malkhasian, an interior ministry spokesman, told AFP. Civilnet reported that most of those detained earlier today have been released.

The office of the prosecutor general said it had opened a probe into charging the protesters with “hooliganism and disturbing public order”. If found guilty, they could face a fine of about $100 or a jail term of up to one year. Armenia’s health ministry said 25 people, including 11 police, were treated for injuries including fractures.

Protesters returned to the streets today and marched back to the Presidential Palace. They have built a barricade using large garbage bins into the street.

A video, uploaded to Facebook by user Suzanne Simonyan, shows Armenian police and men in plainclothes chasing, brutally beating, and detaining Tuesday’s participants in the protest sit-in on Baghramyan Avenue.

Video of the police assault early Tuesday morning.

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People return to the streets Tuesday afternoon.

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