Armenian activists took to the streets and halls this past week, gathering citizens to bolster the Armenian Genocide recognition movement.
On April 17, GCC students Anais Thomassian and Christopher Filippi, along with UCLA student Talin Thomassian, performed an excerpt from Lilit Thomassian’s play “Let the Rocks Speak” on campus.
The actors told sad tales of the Armenian Genocide from the perspectives of those who had witnessed it. Although the performance was plagued with microphone feedback problems, the actors performed seemingly undistracted.
Genocide expert Dr. Hilmar Kaiser lectured in Kreider Hall on April 19. He stated that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians required a planned and organized effort by the Turkish government and could not have been the mere casualty of the Turkish war, as the Turkish government claims.
By definition, genocide is a planned extermination of an entire people. Kaiser stated that the denial of the Armenian genocide by present-day governments is “psychological warfare on a victim population.”
He also explained why April 24, 1915 — the day the Turkish government began to capture is considered the first day of the genocide.
On Saturday, Zareh Megerditchian’s traveling performance art piece “The Red Trees of the Armenian Genocide” could be seen at the corner of Brand and Broadway in downtown Glendale. The piece combined choreography and painting to present a minimalist human sculpture.
The performers held tree branches painted red — to symbolize dead family trees and bloodshed — as they made synchronized movements. While many passersby looked on, few gathered to watch.
Later that evening, Armenian youths gathered at an Encino rally in preparation for the demanding demonstrations to follow in the week. Patriotic singers roused an energetic audience with folk songs and revolutionary anthems.
Vic Sosikian of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) said this particular youth rally has been very active the last two years. Over 2,000 young people have attended previously, and numbers increased again this year. “It becomes a very emotional, but very motivational event,” said Sosikian.
Nearly 1,000 youths and elders convened Sunday afternoon at the Rose and Alex Pilibos School in Hollywood before marching about four hours to the Turkish consulate. The march, also organized by the AYF, brought students, children, and adults together.
“What was interesting was that there were not only Armenians, but Latinos and others all out for the cause,” said GCC student Mariette Soojian. “This was very beautiful.”
At the consulate, Los Angeles Times staff writer Greg Krikorian and State Assembly member Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, delivered encouraging speeches. Dark came, and candles were lit for a vigil that lasted until 8:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, the anticipated storm of active citizens participated in the “March at Little Armenia,” organized by the United Armenian Students. Many wore black shirts bearing the slogan “Genocide: Never Again.”
Automobiles with Armenian flags strapped onto the hoods The hot weather caused a few people to faint, but medics were on hand.
Around noon, people stopped marching and gathered at Sunset Boulevard and Hobart Street to hear speakers say that the Armenian people will persevere and “live forever.”
Later in the day, another demonstration was held at the Turkish Consulate. The “Protest Against Inhumanity,” organized by the AYF for over 25 years, commemorated the Armenian Genocide by attacking the Turkish government. Messages on the placards ranged from the strongly stated — “Turkish money equals Armenian blood” — to the strongly emotional — “Turks killed my grandpa.”
Youths with bullhorns led the picketers in chanting “Genocide denied is genocide encouraged,” and “Turkey must pay; Turkey will pay.”
When asked about the hopes raised for genocide recognition demonstrations, GCC student Lianna Ansryan said, “The U.S. should start doing something about it. The U.S. is afraid of Turkey because we have close relations with them. In World War I, the U.S. blamed the Turks and took the side of the Armenians. It’s hypocritical what they do now.”
At 5:15 p.m., people linked hands to a call for a united Armenian front. As picketers straggled, one organizer shouted, “Keep walking! This way! It’s not that hard.”
“Having this unity of Armenian student youths … to see so many … motivated toward the cause of humanity is something to be very happy about,” said Sosikian.
Quoting the “Genocide Never Again” protest slogan, he says that the 60,000 active Armenian Americans demonstrating for recognition is the kind of organization that moves representatives to push Genocide resolutions in the state and federal legislatures.
Culminating the week of intense demonstrations that day, between 4,000 and 8,000 Armenian Americans gathered at Bricknell Park in Montebello for a memorial service. Citizens laid flowers at the park’s genocide memorial and heard speeches for “Recognition, Restitution, and Reparation.”