LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hollywood and Mid-City April 24 to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which Turkey insists did not happen.
The first of two marches began at 10 a.m. in Hollywood, where a march organized by Unified Young Armenians originated near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue in Little Armenia.
Thousands of chanting and flag-waving Armenians and their supporters flocked to the area, clogging Hollywood Boulevard for several blocks and leading to traffic nightmares for morning commuters who were met with closed streets.
After a rally, participants marched along Hollywood Boulevard, Normandie Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
Meanwhile, a second rally, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee, began around midday at Pan Pacific Park at 7600 Beverly Blvd., where thousands of people gathered for a march to the Turkish Consulate at 6300 Wilshire Blvd.
“Whenever there is a lie, we speak what? The truth,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the crowd. “May our voices from Mount Hollywood be heard all the way on Mount Ararat. This community can not only not be silenced, this community can never, never be destroyed.”
Road closures prompted by the massive protest kept traffic restricted around The Grove shopping center, the Fairfax District and south to Wilshire Boulevard for much of the day.
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. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Rep. Dave Trott, R-Michigan, last month introduced a resolution asking Congress to formally recognize the genocide.
“Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire undertook a brutal campaign of murder, rape and displacement against the Armenian people that took the lives of 1.5 million men, women and children in the first genocide of the 20th century,” Schiff said.
“Even today hundreds of thousands of religious minorities face existential threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is therefore all the more pressing that the Congress recognize the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide and stand against modern day genocide and crimes against humanity.”
Despite the call, President Donald Trump — continuing a years-long tradition of U.S. presidents refusing to use the word “genocide” to describe the events — issued a statement proclaiming “Armenian Remembrance Day.”
“Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th Century,” Trump said. “Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.”
Schiff blasted the Republican president for failing to recognize the events as a “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.
“Today, we received a disappointing statement from yet another president, refusing to acknowledge the murder of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 for what it was — a genocide,” Schiff said. “President Trump now joins a long line of both Republican and Democratic presidents unwilling to confront Turkey, and by refusing to do so, he has made the United States once again a party to its campaign of denial.”