LOS ANGELES – In an unprecedented show of support for the centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, over 130 thousand community leaders, religious figures, elected officials and activists took to the streets of Little Armenia on April 24th to march for justice for the martyred souls who perished at the hands of the Ottoman government during World War I.
Throngs joined Friday’s six-mile walk from the Little Armenia neighborhood to the Turkish Consulate, carrying flags and signs voicing their common and persistent call for the Turkish government to recognize the deaths of more than 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. Many of the signs voiced forceful messages: “We Demand Justice” and “Turkey Must Pay.” The march is said to have been the largest in the history of protests in Los Angeles joined by politicians at the federal, state and local level.
The event began with an unveiling ceremony of the “Armenian Genocide Memorial Square” sign adorning the busy intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue. The erection of the signs, spearheaded by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell with the participation of the Consul General of RA in Los Angeles Sergey Sargisov, drew thousands of onlookers while Federal, State and local political leaders hailed the sign as an important and significant step towards recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Councilmember O’Farrell stated that the marker will show that the city of Los Angeles recognizes the history of the Armenian Genocide, emphasizing the impact of the event on the Armenian community.
“One hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire attempted to annihilate an entire race in the first genocide of the last century,” said Congressman Adam Schiff. “When it was over, 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children lay dead and many thousands of others barely survived. Despite a brutal campaign of massacres, forced death marches, lootings and rape, the Young Turks failed to destroy the Armenian people as evidenced by the vibrant diaspora and Armenian nation.”
Immediately following the unveiling ceremony was the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of Western US — a coalition of 19 community organizations, organized a march which began with an invocation by H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, H.E. Mgr. Michael Mouradian, Bishop of Armenian Catholics of North America, and Rev. Joe Matossian. The event featured speakers including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Consul General Sergey Sargisov, State Senator Kevin De Leon and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, whose Armenian language speech invigorated the audience made up of young and old Armenians and non-Armenians.
Elected officials at the Federal, State and local levels listened to the speeches as they gazed at the myriad of audience members holding signs in support of recognition, restitution and reparations for descendants and victims of the Armenian Genocide. Among those in attendance were Congressmembers Adam Schiff and Judy Chu, State Assemblymembers Mike Gatto, Scott Wilk, Mike Gipson and Adrin Nazarian, State Controller Betty Yee, LA County Mayor Michael Antonovich, LA County Assessor Jeffrey Prang, LA City Councilmembers Felipe Fuentes, Nury Martinez, Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer and many others.
The march proceeded towards the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles where Los Angeles City Councilmember Krekorian addressed the 130 thousand strong and described the story of his grandmother and her brother, a professor in Turkey who was arrested, tortured, and killed by the Turkish government at the start of the Armenian Genocide. Krekorian condemned President Obama’s decision to once again refuse to utilize the word Genocide. “Presidents come and go,” he said. “Congressmen come and go. But the truth remains.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, addressed the crowd and expressed his his heartfelt connection to the Armenian people’s struggle for justice for the genocide of their people. “As a Jew, I know of many loved ones who were lost to the Holocaust, which may have happened because the Armenian Genocide was ignored,” he said.
Representative Adam Schiff, who earlier this week read out the names of one thousand Genocide victims on the House floor, called on Turkey to recognize the crimes of it predecessors and “help heal the wounds.” Rep. Schiff also condemned President Obama for his failure to recognize the Genocide. Schiff said: “To be honest, it would have been better if the President said nothing at all.”
Also speaking at the rally were co-chairs of the AGCC, AGBU chairwoman Talin Yacoubian and former chairman of the Armenian Bar Association Garo Ghazarian, who asked all representatives of the 19 organizations which comprise the AGCC to join them and renowned Armenian singer Harout Pamboukjian on stage as they sang Armenia’s national anthem.