LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hollywood and Mid-City Monday in what they called a “March for Justice” to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which Turkey insists did not happen.
The first of two marches began at 10 a.m. in Hollywood, where a march organized by Unified Young Armenians originated near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue in Little Armenia. Thousands of chanting and flag-waving Armenians and their supporters flocked to the area, clogging Hollywood Boulevard for several blocks and leading to traffic nightmares for morning commuters who were met with closed streets.
After a rally, participants marched along Hollywood Boulevard, Normandie Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
Meanwhile, a second rally, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee, began around midday at Pan Pacific Park at 7600 Beverly Blvd., where thousands of people gathered for a march to the Turkish Consulate at 6300 Wilshire Blvd. A plane towed a Turkish flag, while a second pulled a banner that read, “Stop Armenian Lies.”
California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsome, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian walked with the demonstrators. Four demonstrators were arrested outside the Turkish Consulate after water bottles and eggs were thrown at counter-protestors, Los Angeles police confirmed.
Teacher and mother Laura Abramian explained to CBS2 that she brought her children to the march.
“It’s important, especially for the youngest generation, to be able to acknowledge, recognize, remember; educate them on what happened to their ancestors over 100 years ago,” Abramian said.
California now mandates the teaching of the Armenian Genocide in 10th grade.
No U.S. president has ever called what happened a genocide. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Rep. Dave Trott, R-Michigan, last month introduced a resolution asking Congress to formally recognize the genocide.
“Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire undertook a brutal campaign of murder, rape, and displacement against the Armenian people that took the lives of 1.5 million men, women, and children in the first genocide of the 20th century,” Schiff said.
Newsome Monday specifically criticized President Obama for what he called flip-flopping on the matter.
“It’s just a reason people are frustrated with politics and politicians,” Newsome said. “Just stand up for what you believe, have clarity and conviction. People will disagree or agree with you, but at least people will know where you stand.
President Donald Trump issued a statement Monday proclaiming “Armenian Remembrance Day.”
“Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th Century,” Trump said. “Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.”
Schiff in turn blasted Trump for failing to recognize the events as a “genocide.”
“Today, we received a disappointing statement from yet another president, refusing to acknowledge the murder of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 for what it was — a genocide,” Schiff said. “President Trump now joins a long line of both Republican and Democratic presidents unwilling to confront Turkey, and by refusing to do so, he has made the United States once again a party to its campaign of denial.”
The Armenian genocide began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in a campaign blamed on the Ottoman Turkish government. While the genocide has been chronicled by historians, who often view it as having been ethnic cleansing, Turkey has denied it occurred, saying the deaths of Armenians was a function of the chaos of World War I, which also claimed Turkish lives.
More than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County, making the Southland home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)