On February 19, 2008 Armenians went to the polls to elect their next president. In a hotly contested vote, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan was announced the winner in the first round by the Central Electoral Commission. The results were disputed by presidential candidate and former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan who, along with his supporters begins a series of protests in Freedom Square, claiming that the vote was rigged.
The rallies that began the day after the election on February 20, lasted for ten days. Protesters in the tens of thousands with some estimates putting the number at over one hundred thousand on given days, would flock to Freedom Square daily. The rallies were peaceful and around the clock. At night, several hundred people would stay at the Square until morning. Many did not believe that police would attempt to disperse the protesters. However at around 6:30 a.m. on March 1, the police did move in and according to some reports, using bludgeons and electric shock devices, forcibly removed the protesters. Levon Ter-Petrosyan was apprehended and placed under house arrest.
As news spread of the police operation, hundreds and then tens of thousands began assembling near Miasnikyan Square as Freedom Square was cordoned off. By the afternoon of March 1, it is estimated that over 100,000 people have gathered. Clashes take place between protesters and security personnel including riot police, Spetsnaz, armored personnel carriers and other military hardware.
By early evening, reports circulate of an impending state of emergency. At 10:30 p.m. that night, Robert Kocharyan announces a 20-day state of emergency as clashes continue early into the morning hours of March 2. Tanks continue roll into the city. By the morning of March 2, there are eight confirmed deaths with hundreds more injured; two more would die later in hospital.
The residents of Yerevan wake up to burnt out cars, looted stores, destroyed streets, army units standing in position in Republic Square and an eerie silence.