LOS ANGELES — Thousands of people marched on the streets of Little Armenia and along Wilshire Boulevard April 24 to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the disputed Armenian genocide, calling on Turkey and the United States to officially recognize it.
Turkey has refused to recognize the killings of 1.5 million Armenians beginning in 1915 as a genocide. United States presidents have also declined to do so, calling the deaths at the hands of the Ottoman Empire an atrocity, but not a genocide.
Thousands of Armenians and their supporters gathered mid-morning near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue for a march sponsored by Unified Young Armenians.
“It’s an important thing for the Armenian community, and hopefully to spread awareness to American citizens,” one participant told NBC4 at the start of the rally.
Another told the station simply, “We’re here to demand for the entire world to recognize the Armenian genocide.”
After a short rally, the thousands of marchers embarked on a circular route east on Hollywood Boulevard, south on Normandie Avenue, west on Sunset Boulevard then north on Hobart Boulevard. Los Angeles police said all the affected streets were closed until at least 3 p.m.
A second rally, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee, began around midday at Pan Pacific Park at 7600 Beverly Blvd., bound for the Turkish Consulate at 6300 Wilshire Blvd. The march moved south adjacent to The Grove shopping center, then west on Third Street, south on Fairfax Avenue then west on Wilshire Boulevard.
LAPD officials said all streets affected by the march were closed until 6 p.m.
The Armenian genocide began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in a campaign blamed on the Ottoman Turkish government. While the genocide has been chronicled by historians, who often view it as having been ethnic cleansing, Turkey has denied it occurred, saying the deaths of Armenians was a function of the chaos of World War I, which also claimed Turkish lives.
More than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County, making the Southland home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia.
Despite calls by some legislators — most notably Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank — for the federal government to formally recognize the genocide, U.S. presidents have long refused to do so. President Donald Trump continued that tradition this year, again denouncing the deaths as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th Century” but failing to use the term “genocide.”
Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, also failed to recognize the genocide during his eight years in office, despite indications during his original campaign that he would do so.
Gov. Jerry Brown issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring a Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
“Between 1915 and 1923, Armenians were subjected to torture, starvation, mass murder and exile from their historic homeland,” Brown’s proclamation said. “1.5 million lost their lives. The Armenian Genocide, also known as the ‘First Genocide of the 20th Century,’ represented a deliberate attempt by the Ottoman Empire to eliminate all traces of a thriving, noble civilization.”
The county Board of Supervisors honored members of the Armenian community as part of the county’s Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said recalling the atrocities suffered would help “prevent such horrific events from ever occurring again.”
Members of the Armenian National Committee of America’s San Gabriel Chapter thanked the board for standing by the community and pushing for federal recognition of the genocide.
“We’re never going to stop until we get our recognition and our justice,” Ashod Mooradian said.
Can Oguz, Turkish consul general in Los Angeles, told KTLA the country wants to build a peaceful relationship between Turks and Armenians, but said the nation’s position has not wavered regarding claims of a genocide.
“We do not accept the comparison between the Holocaust and what happened in 1915,” he said. “That’s why we always keep stressing the importance of legal and historical context.”
Schiff, however, said that despite Turkey’s “denials and protestations to this day, there is no historical debate and there can be no equivocation. By refusing to officially recognize the Armenian genocide, America is simply not living up to its moral responsibility and undermining its leadership on human rights.”