Friday, April 25th in Los Angeles, California was a day of great passion for all those who marched towards the Turkish consulate. Those involved demanded recognition of the much debated Armenian genocide, which included around 1.5 million Armenian deaths as a result of Turkish Ottoman attacks in 1915. Over 130,000 people (as estimated by the Los Angeles Police Department) participated in the movement to raise awareness on one of the most controversial massacres of the century.
Participants in the movement began their journey in the neighborhood of little Armenia. They proceeded six miles onward to Wilshire Boulevard, ending at the Turkish consulate. Those involved in the March were recorded shouting definitive protests such as "Shame on Turkey," and "We want justice."
Although no Turk would dispute the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians caused by the Turkish military during the early twentieth century, the country of Turkey overall refuses to define these events as genocide. It is also worth mentioning that the vast majority of the 1.5 million Armenians who were slaughtered were Christians. Today in the America forty-three of our fifty states acknowledge that genocide did indeed occur. Controversially however the United States Federal Government has not officially recognized the past events as an official genocide.
During a campaign speech before his 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama publicly announced his support for recognition of the Armenian Genocide. However after his election, he neglected to raise the issue once more and take a stand. Avoiding this subject, however, was a strategic move on Obama's behalf mostly because of hopes to continue peaceful relations with America's ally Turkey, who finds itself in a central location. While respectfully honoring the 100th anniversary, U.S. President Obama described the past events as a "massacre of horrific violence." Indeed avoiding the term "genocide" was again strategic. At least one protester was arrested during the march.
Many demonstrators stated the importance of Turkish acceptance of the Armenian Genocide. According to them, this would provide improvements in foreign relations worldwide. Sophie Jihanian of the LA Times reported that "We also believe tremendously that this will help all genocides in the world be eradicated for all people." She boldly claims that perhaps if this genocide had been recognized, years later the Holocaust would not have taken place. Immediately following this she states the term "genocide" is used loosely today, and that the number of actual Armenian deaths is heavily debated.
Archbishop Jose Gomez (representing the Catholic Church) tweeted a message in support of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide; explaining that Christian brothers and sisters were martyrs for Christ during the past century's events. Alternatively, the general of the Turkish consulate in Los Angeles (Raife Gulru) claimed that Turkey in no way disregards the deaths and suffering of many Armenians during WWI. She concludes by again emphasizing that the word "genocide" is perhaps used too easily today without understanding total death toll and the reasons behind the loss of life.