HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) – Several major thoroughfares were closed Tuesday as thousands of people took to the streets in two separate rallies in Hollywood and Mid-City to mark the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide, demanding that the U.S. government finally recognize it.

cf994ad5bac34f40916290b54a3f7e48 Thousands March In LA To Mark 103rd Anniversary Of Armenian Genocide

Thousands march through Hollywood to mark the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. April 24, 2018. (CBS2)

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 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. U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama and Donald Trump, have refused to formally recognize the genocide. However, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement Tuesday recognizing the genocide.

“On this day, we honor the victims and survivors of the genocide, and reaffirm our commitment to preventing future atrocities from being committed against any people,” Brown’s statement read.

In his annual White House statement, Mr. Trump commemorated the start of “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century, when one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. We recall the horrific events of 1915 and grieve for the lives lost and the many who suffered.”

The first of the two rallies, termed the Marches for Justice, began at 10 a.m. and was organized by Unified Young Armenians. It started near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue in Little Armenia. Mayor Eric Garcetti and several local officials took part. The participants marched east on Hollywood Boulevard, south on Normandie Avenue, west on Sunset Boulevard then north on Hobart Boulevard.

Los Angeles police said all the affected streets will be closed through 3 p.m.

A second rally, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee, began around midday at Pan Pacific Park at 7600 Beverly Blvd. and ending at the Turkish Consulate at 6300 Wilshire Blvd.

LAPD officials said all streets affected by the march will be closed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(©2018 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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