Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Armenian Americans gathered at several events throughout Los Angeles County April 24 to mark the 107th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide — the mass killing of Armenians by Turkish forces during World War I.
Los Angeles County is home to the largest population of Armenians in the United States, with an estimated 214,628 living here, according to the 2011 American Community Survey.
To honor the county’s Armenian residents and their culture, the Board of Supervisors last month proclaimed April as “Armenian History Month” and passed a motion April 19 declaring April 24 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day in Los Angeles County.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also issued a proclamation declaring April 24, a day of remembrance of the Armenian Genocide in the state.
“As we remember the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, we also honor the strength and resilience of the Armenian people,” Newsom’s proclamation said in part. “Forced to build new lives in all corners of the globe, Armenians bravely forged ahead in the face of unimaginable tragedy. Thousands made their homes in California, and we are greater for their contributions.”
April 24 is also observed throughout the Armenian diaspora, and is a holiday in Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh.
In Los Angeles, the Armenian Youth Federation held a protest attended by hundreds of demonstrators outside the Turkish Consulate at 8500 Wilshire Blvd. to demand the Turkish government acknowledge the genocide and stop its support of Azerbaijan in the Artsakh, a region fought over by Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“Our community is also calling on the U.S. government to prevent Turkey and Azerbaijan from committing ongoing war crimes against the Armenian people,” Alex Galitsky, spokesman for the Armenian National Committee of America, an organizer of the event told the Los Angeles Times.
The Armenian Genocide began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in a campaign blamed on Turkey’s Ottoman 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.
Until President Joe Biden in 2021 officially called the killings a genocide, American presidents had also declined to do so, instead classifying the deaths at the hands of the Ottoman Empire an atrocity, but not a genocide.
Last week’s Remembrance Day motion by the county Board of Supervisors — co-introduced by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger — said, in part, “Despite overwhelming evidence, the Turkish government still denies the occurrence of an Armenian Genocide. Many international and American leaders and elected officials from local, state, and federal governments have condemned the atrocities committed against the Armenians and are calling on Turkey to acknowledge the genocide and its participation in it.”
Solis, whose district includes Little Armenia, said, “Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is an especially poignant commemoration for residents across Los Angeles County. … Through this motion, we mark our commitment to remember the lives lost in the Armenian Genocide, honor the legacy of survivors and elevate the voices of this dynamic and diverse community.”
Said Barger: “The month of April and the celebration of Armenian culture culminates in our Day of Remembrance, a day to mourn and remember the loss of over 1.5 million innocent lives. I am heartened that my Armenian constituents are a resilient people — determined, focused and dedicated to persevering.”
Last year, following Biden’s declaration, Rep. Adam Schiff — whose district includes a large Armenian community in Glendale — said, “For Armenian-Americans and everyone who believes in human rights and the truth, today marks an historic milestone:President Biden has defied Turkish threats and recognized the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians for what it was — the first genocide of the 20th century. In so doing, he has cast aside decades of shameful silence and half-truths, and the broken promises of so many of his predecessors, and spoken truth to power.”
The city of Glendale held its annual Armenian Genocide Commemorative Event in-person for the first time in two years, at the Alex Theatre. The city said the program would allow people to experience a contemporary perspective of the genocide through music and dance, featuring the work of the Armenian priest Komitas through dance and musical performances curated by the Lark Musical Society.
And St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Glendale held a concert dedicated to the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide and the 44-day war in the Artsakh.