BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It was great!
I was in a sea of Armenians! (Somehow, using “ocean” doesn’t seem right given that Armenia borders on seas, not oceans).
But how did I get there? Sadly, it started with Turks killing Armenians again. The cause was the war between the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh on one side and the aggressors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, on the other. This was to be the March for Victory.
I had gone on my Sunday hike and got home to an anticipated message from a friend who I had guessed would want to carpool to the demonstration at the Los Angeles Consulate General of Turkey. He didn’t disappoint. But, he hadn’t figured on the need for a car shuttle, since the protest started at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles and ended at the Consulate in Beverly Hills.
I drove over to his place and thence proceeded, following each other to drive west in the San Fernando Valley. Exiting at Laurel Canyon Boulevard from California State Highway 101… it started! There was inordinate traffic for that time of day. I realized why when I saw countless cars with our tricolor fluttering in the car-created wind hanging from car windows. Take that, LA Lakers! Your flags were far outnumbered! This was exciting and pleasing as we honked horns and gave one another thumbs-ups.
While pleasing, as a result of the traffic, we got to the drop-off point for the car shuttle well after the 3 pm start time. Parking was relatively easy to find, though having forgotten the Turkish consulate had moved, I parked near the old location. Luckily, it ended up being half-way between the old and new locations. I can only hope that the reason the consulate has moved twice since I have been in the LA area is that their neighbors and landlords eventually tire of the discomfort they experience when we do our demonstrations in front of their facilities. The Turks representing Ankara in LA and elsewhere should become known as bad, undesirable, neighbors, making it harder for them to find space to rent and do their job of attacking Armenian interests.
As we worked our way to Pan Pacific Park, we kept seeing tricolors and people in T-shirts marking the day’s occasion or other Armenian themes, usually the Genocide. Finding parking near the starting point was a huge challenge. We ended up some ten blocks away from the park.
When we got to the park, there were still some of our compatriots there, many waiting in line for the restroom, which we, too, visited. By the time we started walking, the last two demonstration monitors were leaving and the detritus of our presence was composed of boxes, some still full, of baby-wipes, presumably for hand sanitizing. We gabbed a pack each and started walking. It was after 4:30.
We proceeded to walk faster than most and observed an ever denser concentration of Armenians as we neared the end. At the back was a semi-truck, honking and blocking car traffic, protecting the marchers. In between were our motorcyclists, this time from the club called “The Brigade”, helping with crowd control. We also saw numerous side streets blocked. On one particular corner, meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years, I learned from him that a bus which was stopped at that corner had been prevented from continuing its route for over an hour since he’d been standing there!
Along the way, many standard chants could be heard, including “Turkey out of Armenia”, “We want justice” and others along with a very apt new one… “Armenian Lives Matter”.
I saw proportionately fewer familiar faces, which is a good sign since it means many people who typically sit out our political activities had been so moved by the idiocy of Baku’s attack that they decided to hit the streets.
One friend I saw estimated there might be as many as 200,000 people in attendance. I think ultimately the number reported was 150,000. I love trying to get a precise number for these types of activities, but the huge scale of this protest was new territory for me. Ultimately, I settled on trying to get a base number, something I could be sure was an absolute low-end number, which turned out to be 105,000. But this does not account for the continuous flow of people in-and-out and the many who stopped short of the rally-point at the Turkish consulate. The 150,000 figure is very realistic. It’s also thrilling for me since I missed the Genocide centennial march in Los Angeles, pegged at 160,000 if I recall correctly (I was speaking at the Phoenix, Az gathering). Imagine how many more people we might have mobilized if we had participated more actively in other movements for people’s rights such as Black Lives Matter or the abuse of people detained at U.S. borders, to name a couple of recent ones. I did see two placards pledging Mexicans’ support to our cause.
By the time I got to the stage, struggling through fairly densely packed people, it was six pm! It was pretty much the end. I worked my way back to my friend. We walked to my car, drove to his, and parted company. We headed home, pleased that our community knows when, as the Armenian saying goes “the knife has reached bone”.
The trip home was also a treat of tricolor flags and honking. I ended up beside some antique cars, all tricked out and flashy, blaring their support for our cause.
It was a good day, a great political action, and particularly pleasing since there were extremely few gray and white hairs. I was in a sea of black hair. It was a much “younger” gathering than any other I’ve attended! I was probably in the oldest 5% of the crowd. While this may be partially attributable to COVID, it’s still gratifying to see that Armenian spirit manifesting itself among the younger segment of our community. The only downside of the day was the significant number of people who were not wearing masks, even though they were a relatively small percentage of the whole.
Let’s keep up the good work. Attend any such actions organized in your area. Creating this kind of public pressure works to our benefit.