MONTEBELLO–More than 7,000 community members gathered at the Montebello Martyrs’ Monument Thursday afternoon to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and to reaffirm and strengthen their commitment to the Armenian Cause.
The political rally–which has turned into a pilgrimage of sorts–followed a requiem service officiated by clergy and religious leaders from the three denominations and a protest demonstration at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles organized by the Armenian Youth Federation and Armenian Student Associations from various colleges and universities in the area.
The political rally at the monument began with a brief religious service followed by a flag ceremony by all the Southern California scout troupes of the Homenetmen led by the Homentmen Western Region marching band.
Masters of Ceremony Sonig Avedikian (Armenian) and Vicken Sonentz Papazian (English) both reiterated the Armenian people’s commitment to not forget the Genocide and pursue the just aspirations and deman’s of the Armenian people. The two also stressed the importance of the political struggle associated with the Genocide–with Sonentz-Papazian stressing that the recognition of the Genocide was aimed at acknowledging the universal acts of man’s inhumanity to man and also deterring future crimes from being committed.
Present at the rally was Armenian Consul General in Los Angeles Armen Baibourtian–who told the crowd that "today–in Yerevan–hundreds of thousands of people… are paying homage to the 1.5 million victims of the Genocide and the heroic martyrs of Karabakh at Dzidzernagabert."
Baibourtian said that the time had come that Turkish government recognize the crimes of Genocide committed by its ancestors. The Consul also emphasized the importance of US recognition of the Genocide.
He expressed hope that the Los Angeles Armenian American community would commemorate future Genocide anniversaries together and in a united spirit and concluded by saying–"We will one day achieve our goal when Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide."
Sonentz-Papazian–Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee-Western Region presented several proclamations from President Bill Clinton–the Los Angeles Board of County Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council which was presented by community leader Hacob Shirvanian.
In addition he introduced the dignitaries and elected officials present at the gathering:Lieutenant Governor of California Gray Davis–State Assembly Majority Leader Antonio Villaraigosa–Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich–State Senator Adam Schiff–State Assemblymember Scott Wildman–Los Angeles Distric Attorney Gil Garcetti–Los Angeles City Attorney James Hahn–Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Hernandez–Mayor of Glendale Larry Zarian–Pasadena Councilwoman Joyce Streator–Consul General of Armnia Armen Baibourtian–Consul General of Cyprus Andreas Kyprianides–Consul General of Greece Christos Panagopoulos–Press Attache of French Consulate Jean’Marie Lebon–Assistant to Consul General of Lebanon Antoine Abou Saker–Under Sheriff Jerry Harper and Los Angeles Chief to Court Services Division Robert Pash.
The keynote speaker of the day–introduced by Avedikian was Armenian academician and activist Berdj Zeitountsian–who was especially invited for this rally.
In his remarks Zeitountsian emphasized the importance of collective memory as a peoples–and outlined that throughout history criminals have counted on people’s forgetfulness–yet through their inhumane acts–they have created new memories which cannot be forgotten.
Zeitountsian also detailed the vicious an violent acts by Turkish leaders during the Genocide and recounted stories of mass murder of children in the most brutal fashion.
He stated that Armenia’s were in a predicament to prove to the world that Genocide had actually occurred–and that Armenia’s in the Diaspora and the homeland serve as live survivors of a crime that still continued.
Zeitountsian also addressed the current political situation–stressing that in today’s political reality the pogroms of Sumgait and Baku have not yet received the proper international condemnation–yet the world–seduced by the Caspian oil–has chosen to forget these atrocities committed by the Soviet Bolshevik regime and has chosen to advocate concepts of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.
The historian stated that following the recent Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Lisbon–when Armenia was once again left alone in the international community–it was proven that Armenia’s should become "one body–one will and one fist," in order to persevere and survive.
Throughout the day during the official gathering–the Armenian Relief Society Western Region in collaboration with the American Red Cross–held a blood drive.
According to official ARS estimates–more than 130 people participated in the drive by donating blood–a figure far exceeding both organizations’ expectations.
The annual protest march at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles–this year–was organized by the joint effort of the AYF and ASAs of UCLA–CSUN–CSLA–CSLB–UCI–Oxy–GCC–PCC–Cal Poly Pomona and others–as well as the AYA.
More than 1,500 mostly young Armenia’s protested the Armenian Genocide at the Consulate–with an extraordinary cautious Los Angeles Police Department on hand to monitor the event.
Chants of "1915 Never Again,"Turkey Out of Armenia," and "We Want Justice" the protesters demanded the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Representatives of the AYF Central Executive Meroujan Kitsinian and the CSUN ASA Ovaness Manucharyan in English and Armenian addressed the crowd at the end of the protest–where the recent California State Assembly and Senate resolution marking April 24 state day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide was read and presented.
The two youth leaders expressed their commitment to the Armenian struggle–following which more than 500 black balloon were released into the air.
In Montebello the Armenian and US national anthems were performed by Garen Gharibian. During the program the Mesrobian Armenian school choir–under the direction of Venera Sandaldjian–performed national and patriotic songs–and at the conclusion of the gathering Araxia Varteresian also performed a medley of songs.
Speakers from the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian school (Marty Galstyan)–the Homenetmen (Shant Dabaghian) and the AYF (Alex Sardar) also presented their views on the Genocide–with Sardar reporting on that morning’s protest at the Turkish Consulate.
At the conclusion of the gathering–representatives of organizations–political parties and compatriotic union placed memorial wreaths at the monument.