Poets & Protesters

Garen Yegparian


This title must be credited to someone participating in the great Seattle trade-negotiations protests of 1999. A discussion of those days is where I heard it and noted it for use as a title someday.

The poetry part of it (with a bit of poetic license taken), refers to the front pages of the Zeytoon bible which were removed around the time of the Genocide and eventually found their way to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. As you know, this matter is in the courts, with the Armenian Apostolic Church suing for their return to reunify them with the rest of the book, now safe in Yerevan.

The LA Times reported on November 20th that 30 people protested at the museum, urging that institution to do the right thing and return the pages.

On November 16th, the same paper had reported about a different protest, in front of the home of Tim Sloan, the chief financial officer of Wells Fargo. But the real news, as evidenced by the headline was “Protest buffer zone imposed” and not the actual demonstration. Sloan lives in the City of San Marino, a small place noted for its affluent residents. The new law requires protestors to be 75 feet from the curb or 150 feet from the targeted home, whichever is further. The fact that this would put demonstrators in front of someone else’s home seems to not matter to the city council members who voted to enact this clear inhibitor of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the first amendment to the U.S. constitution.

As if this wasn’t enough, the police chief, John Schaeffer is quoted referring to “the victims of the picketing”! What a despicable statement! How can someone whose institution has caused immeasurable misery be considered a victim rather than a perpetrator?

What if LA had a similar ordinance? Our Zeytoon bible protesters might have had to stand in the middle of a 10 lane highway (I-405) or on the edge of a cliff to protest at the Getty! (for those unfamiliar with the museum’s location, it is on the west flank of the Sepulveda Pass, which as you might expect is a relatively narrow passage through the Santa Monica Mountains).

This kind of obstruction of freedom of speech is heinous. Yet the news was buried on the fourth page of the second section of the paper. I saw no editorials or letters to the editor in later editions. I have also not heard about it elsewhere. It is frightening that people are taking this so lightly. There’s a snooty, sneering, condescending attitude that seem to be present whenever people protest. It has been manifested most recently against the Occupy movement. Most often, this reaction can be observed among those who fall on the right-wing of the political spectrum. But they should beware what the cheer. If laws such as this spring up in response to Occupy, the next time Tea Party types want to do what they did in the summer of 2009 with their boisterous, heckling, disruptive protests at congressmembers’ local gatherings about the upcoming healthcare law, they will be prevented from doing so.

Of course the same could easily be done to our protests and rallies at Turkish diplomatic installations or their propagandists’ events. Any Armenians living in San Marino should let their councilmembers know, in no uncertain terms, that this law is a manifestation of very bad public policy and should be rescinded immediately.


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