Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom Calls for Turkey Divestment

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a rally at March for Justice at the Turkish Consulate in LA on April 24

LOS ANGELES –Tens of thousands of activists, community members and allies turned out on April 24 for the March for Justice for the Armenian Genocide at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles. Throngs of people were in attendance on to seek justice and demand recognition and reparations from the government of Turkey.

As one of the featured speakers at the rally in front of the Consulate General of Turkey in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 24, Lieutenant Governor Newsom delivered a powerful message to the state and to the Turkish Republic, stating unequivocally, “It is wrong of us as a state and as a system like the UC to invest in Turkish businesses and bonds. It’s time for divestment at the UC and CalPERS! And let me commit to you to work hard to advance that principal as well as we advance the principle of reconciliation.”

Over the past four years, beginning with the UC Divest Turkey movement, and subsequently at the initiative of the ANCA-WR and the leadership of Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, there has been a campaign to have state public funds divested from the government of the Turkish Republic due to its ongoing Armenian Genocide denial and horrendous human rights record.

The Armenian Youth Federation and the All-ASA, comprised of Armenian students organizations throughout California, succeeded in the passage of resolutions at all nine undergraduate UC campuses, calling upon the University of California to divest from 2014 through 2016. In Sacramento, Assemblymember Nazarian has championed the issue and he introduced AB 1597 last year. Working in conjunction with the ANCA-WR, the bill was passed by a unanimous vote by the California State Assembly. It is currently awaiting consideration by a Senate policy committee, before a vote on the Senate floor can be scheduled.

Lieutenant Governor Newsom has had long history with the Armenian American community in his native San Francisco, and has been a strong supporter of its issues beginning with his days as a San Francisco Supervisor, then as Mayor of the City following his election in 2003, and as Lieutenant Governor for the past eight years. The ANCA-WR and the ANCA-SF Bay Area met with Newsom several times recently, and he pledged his support for the cause of divestment from Turkey.

A scene from the March for Justice to the Turkish Consulate in LA on April 24

A scene from the March for Justice to the Turkish Consulate in LA on April 24

The March for Justice, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee (AGC), a group of 20 community organizations and religious leaders who have come together to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, commenced at Pan Pacific Park with welcoming remarks by the Lara Armani that was followed by two strong musical performances by Marc Toureille and Maria Cozette. Hip Hop recording artist Marc Toureille performed his single, “1915,” which is a powerful song about the Armenian Genocide while singer, songwriter, and producer Maria Cozette performed “Adana.” Armani then invited LA City Councilmember Paul Krekorian and Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti to deliver their messages of support and solidarity to the Armenian community.

Asbarez aired the entire program live on Facebook. WATCH.

In his address, Councilmember Krekorian explained that all Armenians carry the DNA of the survivors of the Genocide as seen through the formation of the First Republic of Armenia, the survival of the Soviet Empire, the Karabakh movement which led to a free and independent Republic of Artsakh, and most recently in the streets of Yerevan during the peaceful demonstrations. “I do not care one bit what the Presidente of the US has to say about our history or our people or our strength. I don’t care one bit what he has to say because he is not powerful enough to change what all of you are making happen today and what I hope you’ll continue to happen after today,” said Krekorian.

Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti expressing his solidarity with the Armenian people, stated, “We are here as one nation. We are here today as one world to remember first and foremost 1.5 million souls whose children would have been here standing with us, whose children’s children would have been here standing with us.” Mayor Garcetti reminded the attendees that silence of crimes like genocide has led to additional genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust that have taken place in the last century. “We march today to remember that past so that we can never see it written in a future chapter ever again and we celebrate the strength and resilience of a people who can never be extinguished from the face of the earth, the Armenian people,” added Mayor Garcetti.

The tens of thousands of marchers were then led for 1.5 miles to the Turkish Consulate by community and religious leaders who were joined by elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Kevin de` Leon, Mayor Garcetti, Councilmember Koretz, and Councilmember Krekorian.

During the March, people held up flags of the U.S., Armenia, Artsakh, and several nations which have recognized the Genocide or which have graciously accepted Genocide survivors, as well as signs which called on Turkey to accept accountability. Led and guided by dozens of well-trained volunteer monitors from the Armenian Youth Federation, marchers also chanted and sang, their unified voice growing louder as the 1.5 mile March culminated at the Turkish Consulate, where several dozen elected officials stood alongside the Armenian-American community and joined their voices in demand of justice.

The four religious leaders of the community, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the Catholic Eparchy, and Reverend Berdj Djambazian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, together led the crowd in prayer to begin the rally in front of the Turkish Consulate.

The program included powerful presentations from Senator Kevin de` Leon, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz, in whose district the March for Justice was being held, all eloquently introduced by co-Masters of Ceremonies Arev Hovsepian and Lara Armani.

Congressman Schiff, referencing the May 2017 attack against peaceful protesters by President Erdogan’s bodyguards, assured the community that Turkey will not get away unpunished. Schiff also stated that these beatings, as well as the violations against freedom of speech in the Turkey, and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 are events that we will never forget.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Koretz expressed similar sentiments by linking his family’s experience with the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. He described his experience learning about the Armenian Genocide when he took a history course during his studies at UCLA. Councilmember Koretz continued to explain that the denial of the Armenian Genocide by his professor motivated him to become an activist. “It’s time we recognize the Armenian Genocide and it’s time the Turkish government pays reparations,” concluded Koretz.

AGC organizational representatives David Ghoogasian and Arpi Avanesian spoke passionately during the program, each highlighting the importance of unity among Armenians around the world.They each described the ongoing struggle of the Armenian People for justice and promised collective efforts until a just resolution is achieved. Each stressed the importance of genocide recognition in order to prevent other genocides from taking place around the world.

A powerful message was delivered on behalf of the youth by Aram Manoukian, who stated that, “The youth is here, standing here with one, simple message. Our struggle is real, our struggle is moving, and our struggle is growing. It is not a matter of if, but when we will be victorious. The sooner we unite, the sooner we work together, the sooner we will move forward, the sooner we will see free and fair elections in Armenia, the sooner we will see our homeland and diaspora working hand in hand, the sooner we will see justice for our ancestors, the sooner we will reach our ultimate goal of an ազատ, անկախ, միացեալ Հայաստան.”

The program also featured representatives of the Assyrian Student Association of Los Angeles, American Hellenic Council, Assyrian American Association of Southern California, Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group of Los Angeles who all expressed their solidarity and support for the Armenian community during their remarks.

The program included uplifting and inspiring musical performances by Kara, Grisha Asatryan, Arno Mkrtchyan, R-Mean, Harout Hagopian, Joseph Krikorian, and Vazgen Barsegyan.

Joining the March for Justice in solidarity were over 30 organizations of various ethnic backgrounds, including Assyrian, Greek, Ezidi, Kurdish, Jewish, Irish, Palestinian, as well as numerous human rights groups, student associations, and other advocacy organizations.

There was extensive media coverage about the March for Justice on virtually all local television stations as well as on social media and in numerous regional and national newspapers.

The City of Los Angeles, through the Mayor’s office, several Council District offices, the LA Department of Transportation, and the LA Police Department, all worked in close collaboration with the AGC to ensure that the March for Justice was executed flawlessly despite full street closures along the route. Many businesses along the way expressed solidarity with the marchers by cheering them on, putting out signs of support and graciously offering refreshments along the way.

Since the Armenian Genocide Centennial of 2015, the annual March for Justice has served as a collective rallying cry by Armenians and non-Armenians alike to finally resolve the issue of this unpunished crime against humanity. Organizers reaffirmed their commitment to continue each year to gather and demand justice from Turkey until full and unequivocal recognition is achieved and reparations are made.

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