Over 150,000 March for Victory in Solidarity with Artsakh

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The 150,000-strong crowd marches along Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills

The 150,000-strong crowd marches along Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills

More than 150,000 Armenian-Americans marched from Pan Pacific Park to the Turkish Consulate General in Los Angeles in a March for Victory to protest Turkey and Azerbaijan’s genocidal aggression against the Armenian people and stand in solidarity with Armenia and Artsakh.

The march, organized by the Pan-Armenian Council of Western United States, followed weeks of demonstrations across Los Angeles and the country demanding action be taken against Turkey and Azerbaijan for their coordinated aggression against Armenia and Artsakh.

The Armenian community has been calling for sanctions to be immediately imposed on Turkey and Azerbaijan, and for the immediate cessation of U.S. military assistance to the two countries.

The march kicked off at Pan-Pacific Park

The march kicked off at Pan-Pacific Park

A kick off program at Pan-Pacific Park began with remarks by Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles Ambassador Armen Baibourtian and featured presentations by Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, Vilen Khachatryan and Syuzanna Abrahamyan. The crowd peacefully marched the two-mile stretch reaching its destination on Wilshire Boulevard, where they were exuberantly greeted by thousands of protesters who had arrived rally point.

A scene from March for Victory

A scene from March for Victory

The thunderous sound of chants proclaiming victory enveloped the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, where the community’s determination to protect the Armenian nation echoed throughout the city.

Federal, state and local elected officials marched alongside the community, among them congressmen Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, both Democrats from California. Sherman was scheduled to speak at the rally in front of the Turkish Consulate, but had to leave because he received word that his mother had passed away. Before the sad news, however, he took to Twitter to voice his support for the Armenian community and stand in solidarity with Armenia and Artsakh. Last week, Sherman made a formal push for Global Magnitsky Act sanctions to be applied to Azerbaijani government officials responsible for the commissioning of war crimes against the Armenian people of Artsakh.

As soon as the marchers arrived, the program began with the singing of the national anthems of the United States, Armenia and Artsakh.

The Yaralian twins performed the American national anthem, while popular singer Harout Pamboukjian sang the Armenian national anthem, followed by a moving rendition of the Artsakh anthem by singer Tro Krikorian.

The beginning of the March for Victory

The beginning of the March for Victory

The anthems were followed by prayers offered by the leaders of the Armenian church demoninations—Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, leader of the Catholic Eparchy of Los Angeles Bishop Mikael Mouradian and Rev. Berdj Djambazian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian made an impassioned speech about the injustices facing the people of Artsakh and Armenia because of the Azerbaijani military aggression that is being supported and encouraged by Turkey.

“A year ago I was in Stepanakert, dancing in Republic Square and attending an International conference  on Peace and Artsakh. I couldn’t have imagined that just one short year after that very same spot where those people were celebrating their harvest festival, they were celebrating the international support they felt from so many friends around the world, that very same spot would be under relentless attack,” said Krekorian.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian

Councilmember Paul Krekorian

“If we really care about human rights anywhere in the world, then we as Americans have to stand up against those who use cluster bombs, drones, and missiles against civilians in Stepanakert and Shushi. If we really care, as Americans, about standing up against Terrorism, then we need to push back on those who would import Terrorism into this attempt at Genocide. We need to stand up as Americans and say enough is enough,” declared Krekorian.

“Next year you can perhaps join me in dancing in Stepanakert, we can all light a  candle and pray in the newly rebuilt Ghazanchetsots, we will all raise a glass in Shushi in honor of the brave men and women who sacrificed so that we can protect our homeland.  We can also toast each other for supporting them,” said Krekorian.

In powerful remarks, Schiff voiced his solidarity for Armenia and Artsakh and expressing his disappointment at the U.S. government for not acting swiftly and resolutely to address these attacks.

“This war did not happen overnight. It is the result of the corrupt regime in Baku that has nothing to offer its people, other than that nationalistic ethic hatred as a substitute for the peace and prosperity it cannot deliver,” said Schiff.

“It is also the result of the failed policy of the United States toward Azerbaijan and Turkey. For too long, the US has perpetuated false equivalence between Azerbaijan, as it launches attack after attack and Armenia and Artsakh as they defend their lives and homes. It should have ended years ago. But it must end now,” added the congressman who represents the largest Armenian-American constituency in the U.S.

Rep. Adam Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff

“It is past time for Azerbaijan and Turkey to face consequences for their murder and actions. A regime that would use its weapons to bomb churches and schools is not a regime that should see a dime from the US Military assistance. They should be cut off from the US military support, NOT ONE DIME MORE!,” declared Schiff.

He vowed to ensure that “not one dime more” of U.S. military assistance should be spent in support of the Azerbaijani and Turkish regimes, and called on the United States Congress to recognize Artsakh’s right to self-determination.

“If Turkey and Azerbaijan, have made it clear that they intend to settle the issue by force, the U.S. should be prepared to move forward with international recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh. The US should stand with the democracies in Stepanakert, not the autocratic regimes in Baku and Ankara,” vowed Schiff. “Erdogan and Aliyev, here are our words – Let Peace prevail. Let freedom and liberty prevail. We will always stand by our brothers and sisters in Armenia and Artsakh.”

Also speaking at the rally was State Assemblyman Chris Holden, who represents the 41st Assembly district.

As the sun set, images featuring messages in solidarity with Artsakh were projected on the side of the building that houses the Turkish Consulate.

As the sun set, images featuring messages in solidarity with Artsakh were projected on the side of the building that houses the Turkish Consulate.

“It is unacceptable that our government is unwilling to play a just and constructive role to bring real peace to the region. It is unacceptable that the US does not recognize Artsakh as a free, independent, and a democratic state. Something my colleagues and I, in the California legislature did on our own in 2014,” explained Holden.

“What we are witnessing today in Artsakh is a continuation of the Genocide against the Armenian people. We are seeing what happens when Turkey gets a free pass, on their crimes against humanity. It is clear who the aggressors are and who is just trying to survive,” said Holden. “Complacency by our country and leaders around the world, sets a dangerous precedent in the message – that we don’t support free, independent, and democratic nations.”

“This is the time to stand up for what is right. Turkey and Azerbaijan must end their aggression. Artsakh and Armenia have the right to be free from bully neighbors that threaten their existence,” added Holden.

Speaking on behalf of the organizations represented on the Pan-Armenian Council were Raffi Hamparian, Taline Yacoubian, Mirna Kassamanian, Milena Mailyan and Garo Ghazarian. Also speaking was community member Kristine Hallajyan.

As the sun set, images featuring messages in solidarity with Artsakh were projected on the side of the building that houses the Turkish Consulate.

The rally featured musical performances by Armenchik, Hovanes Balyan and Tigran Assatryan who was joined on stage by Pamboukian for a finale that featured the song “Haghtelouenk”—We Will Win, that has become the anthem of this movement.

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