YEREVAN — On August 20, a hot Thursday afternoon, scores of demonstrators from the Armenian Environmental Front (AEF) and the Save Amulsar movement assembled in front of the Armenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The rally was composed of Yerevan locals and a group of activists and concerned citizens from the southern resort town of Jermuk, who had travelled to Yerevan in a 200-car motorcade organized by Save Amulsar. The goal of the rally was simple: to raise awareness of the environmental threat to Amulsar, and to protest government inaction.
Delivering several speeches over megaphone and leading the crowds in chants of “Amulsar, Miayn Sar” (Amulsar must remain a mountain), the rally’s organizers led demonstrators on a march from the Opera down the sidewalks of Mashtots Avenue and past the shop fronts of Northern Avenue, before bringing the rally to the Armenian government’s front door on Republic Square.
AEF organizers repeatedly reminded attendees of the rally to respect social distancing and wear masks, and these rules were mostly observed.
Over the course of the rally, demonstrators were shadowed by a veritable army of Special Unit police officers who surrounded the peaceful demonstrators and blockaded the entrances to government buildings. Speeches were routinely interrupted by loudspeaker announcements from police patrol cars, reminding demonstrators to maintain social distancing and to don masks in accordance with the law. Rally goers in turn tried to drown out the PA announcements with the chanting of slogans and the sound of drums. Demonstrators from Jermuk were photographed by police officers, and a few individuals were ticketed for not wearing masks. All of this combined to produce a frosty government reception for the environmental activists.