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Marchers Protest Armenian Genocide

Anniversary: About 20,000 call on Turks to admit guilt in the deaths of 1.5 million beginning in 1915.

April 25, 2002|GEORGE RAMOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 20,000 marchers took to the streets of Hollywood's Little Armenia on Wednesday to call on Turkey to acknowledge its historical role in the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians that began in 1915.

The most vocal in the procession were, primarily, high school students in black T-shirts who shouted, "1915, never again!"

Maggie Melikyan, a 17-year-old senior at North Hollywood High School, typified the attitude of many young people as she watched marchers pass the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue under threatening skies.

The Armenian genocide "is something that you feel in your heart, that you feel in your soul," said Melikyan, who recounted stories that a surviving relative told of the killings carried out by the Ottoman Turkish authorities during World War I and shortly afterward.

"It's definitely alive for me," Melikyan said.

The march was one of several events staged in Southern California on Wednesday to mark Armenian Genocide Day.

April 24 is the date that Armenian historians and activists say the mass slaughter began.

Such observances are particularly meaningful in Greater Los Angeles, where more than half a million people of Armenian descent live. It is the largest enclave of Armenians anywhere outside their traditional homelands in Turkey and the nation of Armenia.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Friday May 3, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Armenian tragedy-A story in the California section April 25 incorrectly described President Bush's condemnation of the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. Bush denounced the killings as a "massacre" and as an "appalling tragedy of the 20th century," but did not use the word "genocide" to describe the killings.

In Montebello, hundreds gathered at the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument to rally and call on Turkey to accept responsibility for the victims' deaths and the displacement of 500,000 people from their homes in Turkish lands.

Later, protesters picketed the mid-Wilshire offices of the Turkish consul general.

Calls to the Turkish Consulate went unanswered. Officials of the Turkish republic, which succeeded the Ottoman Empire in 1923, have long denied that the Turks committed genocide.

That mattered little to the marchers in Little Armenia, who carried signs that read, "Turkey guilty of genocide," "We condemn terrorism and genocide" and "Armenians united forever."

They walked for nearly two miles, partially closing Sunset and Hollywood boulevards and Normandie and Western avenues.

Most of Little Armenia businesses were closed to mark the day. At a rally after the march, speakers told the crowd, in Armenian and English, never to forget the genocide.

"Our land was taken from us," said Archbishop Vatche Hovsepyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church. "We were massacred on our own land."

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents Little Armenia, added that April 24 stands as "one of the [most] horrible days in human history."

The crowd cheered loudly when a representative of Gov. Gray Davis said the state's chief executive had recognized Wednesday as a day of remembrance throughout California for the Armenian genocide.

Not to be outdone by Democrats, ranking Republicans also issued statements of solidarity with Armenians. President Bush and Bill Simon Jr., the GOP nominee for governor who faces Davis in the November election, said the genocide should never be forgotten.

Bush in his message called on Turkey to lift its blockades and normalize relations with Armenia.

In his statement, Simon said, "We are grateful for the countless ways in which Armenian Americans continue to enrich California's science, culture, commerce and, indeed, all aspects of our life."

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