Thousands Gather At Montebello Monument to Mark 87th Anniversary of The Armenian Genocide

MONTEBELLO–The California-Armenian community–once again–vocally expressed its deman’s for justice and recognition of the Armenian Genocide during commemoration activities on April 24–the main event for which was held at the Montebello Martyrs Monument at Bicknell park where thousands gathered to mark the 87th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Representatives of local–state and federal officials came forth to express their solidarity with the Armenian people and presented proclamations marking April 24 a day of remembrance throughout cities–counties and the state.

The main speaker for the event was California First Lady Sharon Davis–who–on behalf of her husband Gov. Gray Davis presented the Armenian community a proclamation–signed a day earlier by the governor–marking April 24 a statewide day of remembrance.

"Every year–we join with Armenian-Americans here in California and with the Armenian community abroad to mourn the loss of so many innocent lives," First Lady Sharon Davis said on behalf of her husband. "All Californians should take time to remember those blessed souls and to recommit themselves to building a world where such events never happen again. As we honor the past–we must also seek justice for its victims."

The First Lady reminded those gathered that the governor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between California and Armenia on November 20–2002. The MOU strengthens and invigorates California and Armenian relations. It serves as a bridge to support the economic–educational and cultural ties between California and Armenia. It also fosters increased trade and foreign investment opportunities.

In 2000–the First Lady said–Gov. Davis signed SB 1915 to enable Genocide victims and their beneficiaries to bring a legal claim against insurance companies for outstanding benefits.

The event was attended by the religious leaders of the California community–Western Primate Arch. Vatche Hovsepian–Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Father Raphael Minassian of the Armenian Catholic Church and Rev. Ron Thomassian of the Armenian Evangelical community–as well as Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member Dr. Viken Hovsepian and his wife Nora.

The Consulate General of Uruguay–Lebanon and Armenia were represented by Consul generals Rodolfo Invenizzi and Sharbil Wahbe–as well as consuls Norair Ghaloumian–Vahagn Hovsepian and Hakop Hovanesyan.

The public officials attending the event included Ray Cordova–district director for Rep. Grace Napolitano; Anahid Oshagan–field representative for Congressman Adam Schiff; Mary Alice Kaloostian of State Sen. Chuck Poochigian’s office; Vahik Gourjian from State Sen. Jack Scott’s ofice; Ron Calderon of Assemblymember Thomas Calderon; Scott Svonkin of Assemblymember Paul Koretz office and George Magallanes from Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg’s office; Armond Aghakhani from Assemblymember Dario Frommer’s office; Supervisor Mike Antonovich with his field repo. Rita Haji-Manoukian; Gerardo Pinedo of Supervisor Yvonne Burke’s office; Adrin Nazarian of Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge’s office–Councilmember Eric Garcetti and his field representative Baydsar Thomasian; Glendale councilmembers Bob Yousefian–Frank Quintero and David Weaver; Glendale Mayor Rafi Manoukian; Montebello Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Salazar; and Dr. Maher Hathout and Kamal Abu Shamsieh of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Master of Ceremonies Mike Mahdesian–who worked at the USAID under the Clinton Administration–welcomed the thousands who had gathered for the commemoration and thanked the community for its unwavering struggle to garner international recognition for the Genocide.

"During my eight years in Washington–I was able to see up close the wheels of denial turn and grind against our quest for justice and truth. I heard all the superficial argumen’s against the recognition put up by the State Department–the Defense Department–within the lobbies of Congress and the offices of the West Wing," explained Mahdesian.

"The lessons I learned–while sobering–were not of despair–but of the need to redouble our efforts–to meet each false argument head–to renew our deep and energetic ties with Congress; and vigorously engage the Executive Branch like never before," asserted Mahdesian.

There are many good people in government. People who understand the tragedy that befell the Armenia’s in 1915. My office was in the State Department. Many of my colleagues there not only understood–but readily admitted–in private–that what occurred was genocide. Some–however–felt the State Department had no responsibility to recognize the Genocide publicly. It wasn’t their fight–so why speak out and antagonize Turkey? We need to tell them that the State Department bears absolute responsibility for lending substance to the campaign of denial," said Mahdesian.

"There are those who push for reconciliation between a selected group of Turks and Armenia’s… What we’ve seen recently–however well meaning–is neither the right context nor the right time. Let us be clear: There can be no reconciliation without recognition; and recognition needs to come first… We can never let talks on reconciliation become a device used to derail the momentum we have built up in our quest for recognition," emphasized Mahdesian

The keynote speaker in English was Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Board of Directors chairman Steve Dadaian–who also discussed the 87-year struggle for recognition and reparations for the crime of Genocide.

"The Genocide is a festering wound on our psyche and remains especially painful for the precious survivors. These survivors–who more properly should be called heroes for what they have been able to overcome and achieve–many of whom are nearing 100 years old–are being forced to spend their remaining days having to endure the indignity of listening to some allege that their pain is imaginary–their nightmare unjustified," said Dadaian.

"If that shames us–it should. No one should have to endure the trauma of Genocide–let alone have to suffer the cruel mockery of their very real–deep-rooted pain," added Dadaian.

In Armenian–the keynote address was presented by chairman of the ARF Western US Central Committee Viken Yacoubian–who reiterated the message of those who spoke before him and firmly embedded the concept that the struggle for justice and recognition must vigorously continue.

Yacoubian also discussed recent efforts for so-called reconciliation with Turkey–and condemned individuals and organizations that have given themselves the right to speak on behalf of the entire Armenian nation by saying that reconciliation is possible without the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Also speaking at the event was ANCA-WR Governmental Relations Director Ardashes Kassakhian who provided a update on the ANCA’s efforts to garner international recognition of the Genocide.

Prior to the conclusion of the event–the leaders of the four Armenian denominations led a procession to the foot of the monument–where a solemn requiem Mass was said.

The program began with a flag procession by Homenetmen’scouts. The Armenian Relief Society also organized a blood drive–in cooperation with the American Red Cross.

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