YEREVAN -- Dozens of protesters have burst into City Hall in Yerevan, demanding the resignation of the Armenian capital's mayor over the stripping of trees from a formerly lush park outside the building.
The demonstrators who stormed the building on May 16 after days of protests are also accusing Mayor Taron Markarian of corruption and the misuse of state funds.
Tree Protesters Storm Yerevan City Hall (natural sound)
They assailed him as an alleged ally of longtime former President Serzh Sarkisian, who stepped down as prime minister on April 23 after weeks of peaceful street protests by Armenians who accused him of clinging to power.
A catalyst for the protests at City Hall was a Facebook post juxtaposing a photograph of the long, narrow park full of trees with one showing it stripped of most of the greenery.
Demonstrators demanded Markarian meet with them and explain why trees were being cut down.
A representative of the mayor told them that the park was being "modernized" and that only dry or dead trees were being cut down.
But several protesters brought branches or twigs with green leaves, which they say were cut in the park, and demanded an explanation from Markarian.
Protesters were still inside the building hours after they burst in, many chanting in an area near the entrance, and there was a crowd outside.
First Deputy Mayor Kamo Areian told protesters that the mayor was eager to meet with them in "a calm atmosphere" to discuss the situation in the park.
Areian indicated that Marakarian had no plans to step down, saying that the "issue of the mayor's resignation is not on the agenda."
The development came eight days after Nikol Pashinian, who led the street protests that unexpectedly brought down Sarkisian after 10 years in power, was voted in as prime minister of the South Caucasus country on May 8.
Opponents of Sarkisian, who had been president for 10 years and moved to the newly powerful post of prime minister in mid-April, see him as part of a long-entrenched ruling elite that is unresponsive to the interests of many Armenians.