BY HRANT GADARIGIAN
Thousands turned out under a cloudy Yerevan sky to hear what Raffi Hovannisian had to say about the future of the movement to remove Serzh Sargsyan from the Presidential Palace.
A representative from Armenia’s student movement noted that students would no longer tolerate undemocratic practices in colleges and universities. She said that while the school boycott had ended, students would engage in other civic actions in the near future.
The next speaker was singer/songwriter Ruben Hakhverdyan who confessed that while he didn’t know what the next steps were but that it was clear that Sargsyan had to go.
Speakers then referred to the letter sent to Serzh Sargsyan by Serj Tankian.
There were calls made for the people to unite and no longer accept fraudulent elections and the lies of successive regimes.
Calls were made to show those international leaders who have congratulated Serzh Sargsyan on his “re-election” who the real president of Armenia is; namely Raffi Hovannisian.
One speaker proposed the formation of a “public council” that would serve as the basis for a new parliament.
One speaker, an analyst affiliated with the Heritage Party, even claimed that the exodus from Armenia had decreased due to Raffi’s Barevolution.
Raffi Hovannisian finally took the stage and took a few minutes to speak about the Sumgait and Baku pogroms and asked for one minute of silence. He said that the perpetrators would pay for their actions.
The politician said that everyone in Freedom Square realizes that they are victorious and united.
He then introduced the comedian/performance artist Vardan Petrosyan who had specifically travelled from France to address the crowd.
To a thunderous ovation, Petrosyan said he wasn’t a politician or an analyst, nevertheless as an an Armenian he was proud of the movement that has begun.
Petrosyan said he always held out hope that Armenians would shake off their indifference and stand up for their rights despite the intimidation and atmosphere of fear and voted for the candidate of their choice.
He noted that this victory was first a victory that took place in the mind, in the heart, in one’s very soul.
He said it was no coincidence that this new awakening has taken place 25 years after the start of the Artsakh movement. The first victories of that movement startled not only Armenians around the world but the international community.
Petrosyan said that those who voted for change had ushered in a serious opportunity for radical transformation in Armenia.
He said that the current regime doesn’t allow families to live a normal life in a normal country.
“The person who has truly won is the person who has succeeded in changing his mindset,” said Petrosyan.
He called on people to direct their subsequent actions according to the highest moral and mental standards that are dear to the Armenian people and to remain steadfast.
Raffi Hovannisian congratulated the youth of Armenia who are leading the struggle with their actions and warned those servants of the regime in schools and colleges to refrain from intimidating and pressuring students.
Hovannisian then called on Serzh Sargsyan and his minions, from local mayors to regional governors, to resign from power and apologize to the people.
He said that no international power, west or east, could deprive the Armenian people of their victory.
Turning to organizational issues, Hovannisian said he was ready to listen to the people despite any anticipated disagreements.
He asked the crowd if they agreed that it was necessary to file a petition with the Central Electoral Commission by March 2 disputing the February 18 presidential election results.
He referred to a proposal made by Nikol Pashinyan that the movement should disclose the make-up of a future Armenian government. This too passed.
Hovannisian promised the crowd that together, in Freedom Square, they would draft an agenda for the coming movement.
He announced a press conference for tomorrow at 12pm at Freedom Square, followed by a march to Myasnikian Square to commemorate those who died on March 1, 2008.
Hovannisian thanked other political parties who agreed to unite
He announced that another victory rally would take place on Saturday March 2, featuring artists, civic activists and other public speakers.
Hovannisian then asked if the people were ready to continue the struggle till power was returned to the people.
The crowd responded in the affirmative.