Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eyewitness Account of March 1st -- Pt. 1

I'm still getting used to the dynamics of Blogger. Part 1 disappeared, so here I'm re-posting it. Scroll below for Part 2.

My translation:

Our Filthy March 1st
Azat Hay's blog (via nazarian)


That Saturday night began for me with a call from G.A., who was very sick and for that reason had been unable to spend the night at Freedom Plaza. I learned from him that, in the early hours of the morning, while it was still dark, the police had tried to attack the people sleeping in their tents. Later, they launched a second, more resolute onslaught, beat those who resisted and stuffed them in their cars. They surrounded Levon, but he did not resist (how could he resist?). He is said to have said, "Please, if you have any basis [for arresting me], go ahead and arrest me." Kocharian's lead adjutant, himself, sat Levon in the car and drove him to his house. Here he was put under house arrest (so that no harm would come to him, as if). A number of protesters were able to successfully escape, and the majority of them gathered near the French embassy. A call was simultaneously made to gather at 15.00 hrs. at Freedom Plaza, and if that was not permitted, to gather at Sakharov Plaza. But because the beatings continued at the plaza of France, it was decided to gather there.

The scene of the event: near the statue of Miasnikian, a dense gathering of about 200,000 [!] people (some say more, but I can't vouch for this) surrounding the statue. The plaza in front of the Mayor's building, the park behind the statue, the surrounding area--all full. The street was closed on two sides with trolleys and buses with flat tires. It became clear that it had been the protestors who had thus barricaded the street, in order to protect themselves against the attacks of the police and others. During the clashes that had erstwhile taken place in the morning, the residents had successfully appropriated 3-4 police shields. The PA system was hooked up and Nikol Sarkissian and Aram Pashinian began to speak. They called for a strengthening of their [the gatherers'] positions using all possible means, without damaging anything, they called on people to be calm and unemotional, and they demanded Levon's release. Sometime before that, Levon had made an announcement from his house regarding the events that had taken place. We decided to return. Dn., Nn., An. and I went to A's house.

When we returned, everyone was listening to Radio Liberty (whoever is unaware, let me say that these days it is the only more or less normal news medium. All broadcasting companies are the government's; Yerkir Media is the Dashnaks', and occasionally a bit more objective. Out of all radio broadcasts, Liberty is the only one operating that lives up to its name; the situation is a bit better on the internet: There is A1Plus and other functioning written sources). We learned from Radio Liberty that which we already knew through the testimonies of eyewitnesses, made complete through certain details.

During this time, [the people] had further strengthened the positions. There was an overturned Vilis [a Soviet jeep, I think] on the road to the circus; during the morning's beatings, it had been driven into the crowds and run over two people, after which, it is said, the driver was beaten and ran away. Who blew-up the Vilis, however, we didn't find out. I want to specifically emphasize that calls were being made in the statue's plaza not to do any damage to private property. Let me adduce two direct quotes from Aram Sarkissian's "speech": "Hey, kid! Hey, kid, get down from there. Get down!" (A youth had climbed up the lean-columns of a building being built in front of the Mayor's building and was throwing down pieces of wood: Many people had armed themselves with pipes and wood from this construction site in general.) "If you're not a provocateur, then get down. I'm appealing to the people and elders around him: Put some sense into him." The young man climbed down. We heard another such episode, in the distance. Someone had approached a car in front of the Mayor's building, perhaps trying to damage it. Someone said, "What are you doing? Kill him like an animal right this minute! We said, Do not touch any private property!" I'm guessing they got rid of him, but I don't know.

We began to notice some stirrings in Republic plaza. It appeared that we were surrounded in that direction by armed forces; dense, helmeted formations were showing up. Our friends, including A.n. who had turned up in that part of the plaza, were telling us about that as well. We learned that a large amount of military equipment was being amassed near the Fish store. There wasn't much information about Levon; they were not allowing him to come. K. had called in the morning from Karmir and said that they were being mobilized. They called D. and told him that the militia of Kubatlu was on its way here.

At that moment a hullabaloo was rising in the direction of Zakian. The formations with shields were beating their shields with their clubs and making noise. We saw M. and the other guys. He said if the situation became impossible, we should escape toward Zakian and from there to his brother's office, moving in-between buildings. It was then that I saw someone with a molotov cocktail. Whence these youths? Where are the nation's keepers? More fairy tales about Manvel, as if he was going to arrive with his army to protect the people. They fired tear gas several times. Then they started throwing noise grenades. Tracer fire. They were trying to scare us. And we were yelling, "Turks, get out of here!" We understood, nonetheless, that there were not but Armenian youths on the other side; whose agenda they were advancing, however, I don't know. An ambulance came into the plaza, turned, and left.

During this tumultuous noise-bombardment, a women fell ill. She was probably around 55-60. I approached. She was out of her senses. She had an accelerated pulse. I gave her a couple of gentle slaps, and she came to, but she was very weak and her awareness, murky. She said her name, A.. It turned out that her son was with us. We laid her on the pedestal of the statue. One of our colleagues (I didn't recall her identity then, but her face was very familiar) had put a Validol [a kind of sedative, I think] in her mouth. I'd already told N. to call 103 [Armenian 911, but for ambulances, only]. The woman began shivering. Her mamrar [?] was cold. I took off my jacket and threw it under her. There was no news of the emergency response. Out of nowhere some people brought a stretcher. We put her on it and ran her across the park toward Zakian. I put on my jacket, content that the phone was in its place and not lost. There, we came across 3-4 private cars. I yelled, Any of the owners of these cars around? One of the cars budged, and we transported her and her son to the hospital.

We turned back to Miasnikian's statue, noticing four stretchers on the way that the ambulance must have left behind before taking off. We hadn't arrived yet when we heard three people yelling "Doctor! Doctor!" in our direction and running after us. One of them was a 16-17 year old with an eye wound. It was a bloody, dirty wound. Someone cleaned the wound a little with a soaked handkerchief. We grabbed the kid by the arm and headed back to Zakian through the park. Again I yelled, Who's got a car? We noticed a foreign car with a young man and a young woman inside, and a beautiful flower bouquet in the back seat. I said, We have to go to the hospital. But the young man had already understood. We transported the wounded youth with his brother in the back seat.

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