WASHINGTON–Activists from more than a dozen states spread out across Capitol Hill Wednesday for the first of three days of non-stop anti-genocide advocacy, capped with an evening reception featuring powerful remarks by outspoken Congressional human rights leaders, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
The three day program, hosted for the second year in a row by the ANCA and the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net), puts community human rights advocates directly in touch with dozens of legislators and every single Senate and House office in support of practical legislative initiatives to stop the genocide in Darfur and end Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide.
The day began with an early morning briefing in the Aramian Conference Room at the ANCA national headquarters and powerful welcoming remarks by Jackie Kanchelian-Speier, a veteran of the California legislature and currently a leading candidate running in the Special Election to fill California’s 12th Congressional District. If elected, former State Senator Speier will become the second Armenian American in Congress, alongside Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA). In her remarks, she touched on her long experience in advocating Armenian American issues and urged the gathered activists to remain vigilant and act effectively in seeking to end the cycle of genocide.
Among the legislators in attendance at the Capitol Hill reception on Wednesday evening were Representatives Jim Costa(D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Laura Richardson (D-CA), and John Tierney (D-MA).
The expanded program, titled "End the Cycle of Genocide:
Grassroots Capitol Campaign," is taking place from March 12th through 14th. Having completed a full day of meetings, the activists will continue their visits on Thursday and Friday, including a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
The activists called for a broad range of steps to end the Darfur Genocide, among them increased funding for peacekeepers, divestment from Sudan, and support for a comprehensive regional peace, as well, of course, for the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106).
Activists taking part in the program came from as far away as Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Texas and Tennessee, and included community advocates–young and old–from Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Throughout the day, and at the Wednesday night reception, they were able to share their experiences, exchange ideas, communicate with Members of Congress, and add new connections to the growing national anti-genocide coalition.
Press Secretary Stephen Miller represented Congresswoman Michele Bachman (R-MN), who delivered a strong floor statement Wednesday supporting Armenian Genocide recognition efforts and praising the work of the ANCA in helping to end the cycle of genocide.
Senior foreign policy expert Greg Aftandilian, representing the office of Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who serves as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was among several Armenian American Congressional staffers in attendance. Other prominent Armenian American aides included Dean Shahinian, Esq., Senior Counsel for the Senate Banking Committee, Margaret Schumaker who handles Armenian issues in the office of Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone, and Joe Sheehy, Legislative Director in the office of Representative Grace Napolitano. Over 50 Congressional offices were represented throughout the course of the evening.