MONTEBELLO–A gathering at the Montebello Armenian Martyrs’ Monument capped off weekend-long activities commemorating the 84th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide–with thousands of Armenian-Americans converging to pay their respects and reaffirm their commitment to the Armenian Cause.
The weekend-long commemoration activities began with a demonstration at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles Friday morning–when more than 800 protested Turkey’s continued denial of the Genocide. This event was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive.
On Friday evening another AYF-sponsored event attracted more than 2000 community members to Avedissian Hall in Encino–where a vigil and commemoration program was held. A vigil was also held at the Montebello Monument Friday evening–organized by the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the Armenian National Committee.
Saturday’s commemoration events began with a requiem mass at the St. Peter’s Armenian church in Van Nuys. The service was officiated by Western Primate Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian–Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Pastor Hovsep Matossian of the Evangelical church and Right Rev. Father Raphael Minassian of the Armenian Catholic church.
Following the service–the religious leaders headed for the Montebello Martyrs’ Monument–where more than 5,000 community members–state–local and federal officials were gathered to take part in the commemoration–organized jointly by the Social Democratic Hunchakian party–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Armenian Democratic League (Ramkavar party).
Present at the monument was Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles Armen Melkonian–Consul Armen Hairapetian and the consular staff. Melkonian’s Greek counterpart George Avgoustis was also present at the gathering.
Among the public officials present at the commemoration were Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)–State Senators Adam Schiff and Hilda Solis–Assemblymen Jack Scott and Scott Wildman; California Attorney General Bill Lockyer; LA County Board of Supervisors member Zev Yaroslavsky; Glendale City Council members Gus Gomez and Rafi Manoukian; Montebello Mayor Kathy Salazar; West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz; Montebello City Treasurer Zaven Malkasian; Los Angeles County police department representative Gary Vasquez. Rep. Matthew Martinez was represented by several staff members.
The commemoration program began with a flag procession to the monument by the Homenetmen Western Region scouts. Following the singing of the national anthems–the Homenetmen marching band played "Cilicia," during which representatives of the three organizing political parties each laid wreaths at the monument. Memorial wreaths were also laid by the Armenian Consulate and community organizations.
The Master of Ceremonies–former Glendale City Councilman Larry Zarian–stressed that Armenia’s will never forget the Genocide–adding that the Armenian-American community has waged a campaign to urge the US government to use the word Genocide when referring to the events of 1915.
Zarian then invited Consul General Melkonian–who in his bi-lingual message–stressed the importance of commemorating the Armenian Genocide–highlighting the need for the international community to recognize the crimes of the Ottoman Turkish government against Armenia’s as Genocide.
Melkonian also expressed satisfaction that the commemoration of the Genocide was taking place under banner of national unity and urged the continuation of such cooperation.
Among the elected officials speaking during the program were Rep. Napolitano; State senator Schiff and Solis; Mayor Salazar; Attorney General Bill Lockyer; West Hollywood City Councilmember Koretz and Greek Consul General Avgoustis. Sheriff Lee Baca dispatched a proclamation–as did several other political officials. California Republican Party vice-chairman Shawn Steele also spoke during the commemoration.
First to address the crowd on behalf of the organizing political parties was ARF Western US Central Committee chairman Hovig Saliba–who pointed out that there are volumes of national–historical and press archives documenting the Armenian Genocide–but Turkey and the international community have chosen to ignore those facts and deny the Genocide.
Saliba urged all Armenia’s to further escalate the struggle for the recognition of the Genocide and be prepared to confront historical revisionists.
In his remarks Hunchakian party representative Roupen Avsharian outlined the double standards being used by the international community in regard to the Armenian Genocide and stressed the importance of attaining recognition for the Genocide–given that the current century is on the brink of an end.
ADL leader Vartan Nazirian drew parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the current treatment of ethnic Albanians by the Serbs. In citing examples from the current-day Kosovo conflict–the speaker addressed the slew of human rights violations continuing around the world.
Before concluding the program–ANCA-WR Developmental Director Ara Bedrossian read proclamations from Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.)–Rep. Martinez–Democratic Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley and chairman of the Republican Party of California–John McGraw.
The program concluded with prayers by the religious leaders.