Thousands marched on Tuesday to the Turkish consulate in Los Angeles demanding justice and the international recognition of the genocide that massacred millions of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. Many of them are direct descendants of the victims.
To this day, Turkey is ferociously rejecting the term genocide to describe the historical events that are compared to a holocaust.
The starting date of the Armenian Genocide is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Ankara 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The cleansing continued during and after World War I resulting in the massacre of millions in Asia minor, modern-day Turkey.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, among those leading the march, told the audience that Los Angeles supports their fight for recognition.
“You don’t have to be Armenian to know what a human tragedy looks like,” Garcetti said. “This was an Armenian tragedy and a human tragedy and all of us will say never again.”
Southern California is home to the largest Armenian community outside Armenia. Census data show about 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County. There are memorials honoring the victims of the genocide in Montebello, Little Armenia and Glendale.
Among the participating organizations for the “March for Justice” was the American Hellenic Council of Southern California (AHC), a non-partisan political advocacy group that aims to promote democracy and human rights with an emphasis on Greece and Cyprus.
“We remember April 24, 1915 to show the Republic of Turkey that we won’t remain silent to the crimes and injustices of Turkish governments, past and present,” noted AHC executive director Ioannis Fidanakis, addressing the crowd.
AHEPA, the largest Greek-American organization issued a statement calling for the U.S. government to recognize the genocide.
“We join with the Armenian American community in remembrance of the 1.5 million Armenians who were brutally and systematically massacred by Ottomans during the Armenian Genocide, and we call for its proper recognition by the U.S. government,” Supreme President Carl R Hollister said.
“We also remember all Christian minorities who were murdered during that time period, including Pontian and Anatolian Greeks,” he added.
AHEPA expressed its disappointment President Donald Trump did not recognize the systematic killing of 1.5 Armenians by Ottoman Turks as Genocide.
In a statement this year, President Trump called it “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.”
“As we honor the memory of those who suffered, we also reflect on our commitment to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated,” the statement read.
No sitting US president has formally recognized the genocide. That includes former President Obama, who promised he would before entering the White House.