On April 24, I was one of the 160,000 people (number was confirmed by Los Angeles City officials and traffic engineers) that marched for justice to protest the Turkish government’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. It was a thrilling experience to take part in the six mile walk, and see how people arrived in droves to make history.
I had initially signed up to take one of the free shuttle buses provided all over the Los Angeles area by the Genocide Centennial Committee, which were taking people to the start of the March in Little Armenia. I changed my mind when I found out that a group of my friends had made other plans to get there. This was just as well, because there was an overwhelming demand for the shuttles.
The group of friends and family I joined met around 9 a.m. at the corner of Vermont and Hollywood Blvd. where a Starbucks stands – we were 12. Six of us decided to take the subway and six of us took a bus ride to the corner of Western and Hollywood Blvd. My sister-in-law told me the subway was crammed with Armenians.
As we boarded Bus #780 which comes from Glendale and Pasadena, we saw a group of our compatriots, all wearing commemoration T-shirts in black or purple. The sight made me emotional, and I had to wipe away a few tears.
Bus #780 took us to the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Western Ave. and from there we walked one block to the starting point which was the intersection of Western Ave and Sunset Blvd in Little Armenia. Sidewalks were packed with crowds coming from all directions. Some parents were pushing strollers; others had their kids on their shoulders. The crowd was a mixture of young and old, all there to show solidarity in one common cause.
The sight reminded me of a children’s picture book about a family going to the beach, and along the way they see so many people from different backgrounds commuting with different modes of transportation.
Although the occasion was somber, the high energy was palpable. Everybody was jazzed up and so eager to march. We joined the sea of people on Sunset Blvd. heading towards Turkish Consulate. The weather could not have been better. The temperature hovered around the upper 60s, the sky was slightly cloudy and it stayed that way until the end of the march around 4 pm.
At the starting point, I noticed that they were giving away poster signs. I left my home-made sign and picked up a poster which said “End the Cycle.” We started the March. Along the way people were chanting slogans such as “Shame on Turkey” and “We demand justice.” A chant that amused me was about Obama not recognizing the Genocide: “Shame on Obama. I’m gonna call your mama.”
Participants also held signs that voiced forceful massages. Numerous blue printed signs that thanked various countries for recognizing the Genocide floated in the crowd. Tri-color flags, large and small, were dispersed and being waved all over.
There were so many Kodak moments. At the beginning, I tried to take a few pictures, but I realized if I continued doing that I would become separated from my group. So after taking a few snapshots, and losing the group once or twice, I put my iPhone in my pocket and didn’t attempt to take more pictures.
The procession was beyond my expectation. Everything went so smooth. Along the way we came across shopkeepers who stood outside of their businesses and waved Armenian flags in solidarity. Free water bottles were distributed all along. I had prepared sandwiches which came in handy. There were food trucks and porta-potties, but the lines were too long.
All in all it was an unforgettable experience. However, the most excitement came the following day on Saturday the 25th, when pictures of the walk were posted on Facebook. The most amazing picture was an arial picture which showed the street packed the with crowds. Today after about two weeks from that day, my heart beats faster whenever I think about the walk.
Catherine Yesayan is a contributor to Asbarez. You can visit her blog.