Thursday, April 15, 2010

On self-restraint, sitting on concrete, and lay-ins

While the FIDH conference was happening, the police tried to behave themselves. They managed to do so on the first day, though they didn't do as well on the second. I imagine folks like Bazaz were bursting at the seams to just go beat up someone, or at least something. But, for those two days, or at least the first one, he just wasn't around. Which may be the only way someone like him can resist abusing and attacking peaceful protesters, by just not being around them.

Soon after, Pashinyan's appeal regarding the January Parliamentary seat election went back to court. Of course, he wasn't allowed to be there - that would just be a crazy idea. Pashinyan's supporters were outside, and it seems the police who were there were probably using one of their new "techniques" to keep the peace: they kept repeating that they were trying to keep things calm, and didn't want disruptions, and wanted people to move onto the sidewalk. Sounds good, right? Except that they weren't making any disturbance, and were ALREADY on the sidewalk.

For those who watch the web videos, the face and voice of former political prisoner Vardges Gaspari has become quite familiar. He is quite impassioned, and can often be seen chanting even when others have stopped. And I remember at least one occasion where he staged his own lay-in - he just lay right down on the ground amongst the protesters, refusing to move. And this is just what he did outside of Pashinyan's case just last week, with a huge picture of Pashinyan draped on top of him, refusing to move.

I think that, for many reasons, people just have no idea what to do with this. Sitting, much less laying, on the street in Armenian culture is very, very, odd - its just not done. Next time you are in Armenia, sit on the pavement -people will walk past you and just look at you like you're absolutely crazy. And having a man, especially an older man, laying on the street makes many, as can be seen in the videos, very uncomfortable, apart from what he is yelling and why he is doing it.

The police are in an even tougher spot when he does this. Because they too feel uncomfortable with the site, but they also know they're supposed to do something about it. But what? What do you do with someone lying down on the ground?

And that is exactly the point. Sit-ins, or lay-ins, are a great way to make life peacefully difficult for those who want to harass or beat you. It is civil disobedience at its best.

[photo from Aravot]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One man civil disobediance does not make.
When will others join him? What are we waiting for?
Both MLK and Gandhi sat in sit ins.
It is time,and the time was two years ago. For cryin out loud, before it's too late!
Aziz 55.5