LOS ANGELES—Tens of thousands of people gathered at Pan Pacific Park on Monday, April 24, in a March for Justice to the Turkish Consulate. Members and friends of the Armenian community turned up in droves to seek justice for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and demand recognition and reparations from the government of Turkey.
At Pan Pacific Park, the starting location of the march, the gathered crowd of thousands was welcomed by Nora Hovsepian, Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) Chair, who spoke on behalf of the Armenian Genocide Committee (AGC), a group of 18 community organizations and religious leaders who have come together to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Hovsepian then invited Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti to deliver their messages of support and solidarity to the Armenian community.
Councilmember Ryu invigorated the crowd by asking, “Are you ready to educate? Are you ready to be heard?” He then continued, “I am so honored to join friends to remember and to reflect upon the Armenian Genocide. It is important that we do not sit idly by in the face of hate and genocide. We cannot let history repeat itself. We must not let history repeat itself.”
Councilmember Paul Krekorian then took the stage, where he exclaimed, “We will never stop demanding justice; we will never stop remembering the past; we will never stop standing up against all genocides occurring anywhere in the world no matter who their victims are, no matter who their perpetrators are. We will not be deterred from stopping genocide anywhere in the world.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke passionately against the continued denial of the Armenian Genocide, stating, “We are here as we are every year with a simple message: When we hear a lie, we speak the truth. When we see an injustice, we don’t just speak up, we step up. We want the message to be heard from Mount Hollywood to Mount Ararat, that we stand together, that we stand with those who are being persecuted in Syria today and that we will accept them as refugees just like the United States accepted so many thousands of refugees and survivors of the Armenian Genocide a century ago.”
The tens of thousands of marchers were then led for 1.5 miles to the Turkish Consulate by community and religious leaders who were joined by elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor Garcetti, Councilmember Ryu, Councilmember Krekorian, LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
During the March, people held up flags of the U.S., Armenia, Artsakh, and several nations which have recognized the Genocide or which have graciously accepted Genocide survivors, as well as signs which called on Turkey to accept accountability. Led by the Homenetmen Marching Band and guided by dozens of well-trained volunteer monitors from the Armenian Youth Federation, marchers also chanted and sang, their unified voice growing louder as the 1.5 mile March culminated at the Turkish Consulate, where several dozen elected officials stood alongside the Armenian-American community and joined their voices in demand of justice.
The four religious leaders of the community, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the Catholic Eparchy, and Reverend Berdj Djambazian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, together led the crowd in prayer to begin the rally in front of the Turkish Consulate. The American and Armenian national anthems were beautifully performed by Maria Cozette.
The program included powerful presentations from Congressman Adam Schiff, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, and Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz, in whose district the March for Justice was being held, all eloquently introduced by co-Masters of Ceremonies Hrach Avedissian and Lara Armani.
Throughout his speech, Congressman Schiff strongly urged the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, noting “The past lives on in the threat of descendants of those who survived the genocide, to those Armenians in Syria and Iraq who are now once again at risk of annihilation and extinction at the hands of ISIS, to those Armenians in Artsakh exposed to murderous violence and rage, to beheadings and mutilation at the hands of the Azeris. The past lives on in all this terror and tragedy, and so we must speak out.”
Lieutenant Governor Newsom condemned those engaging in denialist lies, stating, “This is a State that believes that the genocide that happened to the Armenian people was an outrage, was an unconscionable act against humanity, not just the Armenian people.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Koretz expressed similar sentiments by highlighting a key difference between the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide: “The German people, as horrible as what they did was, recognized what they did, acknowledged it, they paid reparations, they have done everything they can to make sure it’s not repeated, they host historic remembrances at some of the sites, and what does the Turkish government and people do? They are cowardly. They pretend that what happened, what the world knows happened, didn’t exist.”
LAUSD President Zimmer led the crowd by chanting “I will tell the truth” several times throughout his address. Zimmer noted the significance of teaching history – specifically, the Armenian Genocide, in all its truth and accuracy- within public school classrooms. Zimmer stated, “Right now, even as we gather here, in the classrooms of Turkey, they are teaching lies and denial. They are teaching generations to deny the truth. Our response to an education of lies is ‘I will tell the truth.’ But we will not rest until every public school classroom in the United States of America teaches the truth of the Armenian Genocide.” Zimmer concluded his speech by turning to the Turkish Consulate, and addressing the empty building, “One day, you will accept the truth.”
AGC organizational representatives Silva Kachigian, Raffi Hamparian, and Armig Khodanian spoke passionately during the program, each calling out President Donald Trump for once again maintaining the policy of his predecessors in refusing to hold Turkey accountable and refusing to describe the events of 1915 as “Genocide.” They each described the ongoing struggle of the Armenian People for justice and vowed to continue collective efforts until a just resolution is achieved.
A powerful message was delivered on behalf of the youth by Rafi Orphali who demanded, “Our story will not end with a march, a protest or a piece of legislation. Our story will continue and it will include the Armenian People residing in our rightful lands in Western Armenia and telling our children, our grandchildren, about how we won.”
The program included uplifting and inspiring musical performances by Armenchik, Harout Pamboukjian, Joseph Krikorian, Maria Cozette, and R-Mean.
Thousands of participants utilized the AGC’s system of reserving spots on nearly 50 buses leading up to April 24 by calling a toll-free number which was widely publicized in Armenian media and through flyers distributed at all community events and church services.
Joining the March for Justice in solidarity were over 30 organizations of various ethnic backgrounds, including Assyrian, Greek, Ezidi, Kurdish, Jewish, Irish, Palestinian, as well as numerous human rights groups, student associations, and other advocacy organizations.
There was extensive media coverage about the March for Justice on virtually all local television stations as well as on social media and in numerous regional and national newspapers.
The City of Los Angeles, through the Mayor’s office, several Council District offices, the LA Department of Transportation, and the LA Police Department, all worked in close collaboration with the AGC to ensure that the March for Justice was executed flawlessly despite full street closures along the route. Many businesses along the way expressed solidarity with the marchers by cheering them on, putting out signs of support and graciously offering refreshments along the way.
Since the Armenian Genocide Centennial of 2015, the annual March for Justice has served as a collective rallying cry by Armenians and non-Armenians alike to finally resolve the issue of this unpunished crime against humanity. Organizers reaffirmed their commitment to continue each year to gather and demand justice from Turkey until full and unequivocal recognition is achieved and reparations are made.