GLENDALE—Late Thursday morning, the Armenian National Committee of America-Glendale held a press conference at the Americana at Brand to update the media and the community at large on its next steps in addressing the issue surrounding Caruso Affiliated’s prior decision to reject advertisement space for the upcoming Armenian Genocide documentary, “Architects of Denial.”
Initially, the press conference was planned to announce an official boycott of the Americana at Brand and Caruso Affiliated based on its utter lack of sensitivity toward the Armenian-American community, its decision to reject billboard space calling it “too political,” claiming that the advertisement would violate their “guideline principle,” which is to “ensure that everyone in the community feels welcome” and Mr. Caruso’s unwillingness to immediately meet with ANCA Glendale to rectify the situation.
But as the organization was setting up the microphones on the green public park in the heart of the Americana at Brand, Caruso Affiliated, submitted a response letter to the organization condemning “violence and atrocities of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of Armenians in our community.” The letter also stated that Caruso Affiliated will work with the producers of “Architects of Denial” and the City of Glendale in an effort to display the advertisement at the Americana at Brand, at no cost to the producers.
The press conference was kicked off with opening remarks by former ANCA-WR Executive Director, Elen Asatryan who thanked the media and the community members, and announced the long list of elected officials and community leaders who were in attendance, standing in solidarity with the organization.
ANCA Glendale Chair, Artin Manoukian then took to the podium to provide the organization’s statement. “Let us be abundantly clear, the Americana serves at the pleasure of the City of Glendale and its citizens, not the other way around…the Americana was basing its decisions on Turkish government interests that oppose the values of tolerance, respect for all cultures and in this case the facts of history. Exposing genocide is never something that should be silenced.”
Manoukian concluded his remarks with “We appreciate these initial positive steps the Americana and Caruso Affiliated are taking. However, this is not how a company like Caruso Affiliated should be demonstrating its corporate citizenship. Caruso Affiliated must seek a relationship with the community that demonstrates, in concrete terms, its understanding and care for the surrounding community and our city. In the coming weeks, we look forward to meeting with Mr. Rick Caruso and his management team to discuss, in concrete terms, how we can forge a better relationship and bond between the community and the Americana and Caruso Affiliated that results in a genuine, constructive and meaningful long-term relationship.”
Executive Producer of Architects of Denial, Dean Cain followed Manoukian’s comments by thanking Mr. Caruso for “recognizing that genocide is not a political issue, it’s a historical fact.” Cain concluded with, “I am glad to see this first step and I hope the film will educate people.”
CA State Senator Anthony Portantino, who joined the efforts on the ground on day one with the release of a strong statement, personally communicated with Caruso Affiliated, and spoke at the Glendale City Council meeting this past Tuesday took to the podium stating, “I am proud to stand here today. Yes, we should appreciate the effort that’s been done, but it also underscores why we make documentaries about historical facts. Let’s be clear the atrocities of 1915 are not in dispute. A movie about a historical fact should not be subject to additional scrutiny for its advertising.” Portantino ended his remarks with a, “shout out to the grassroots who advocated, posted, made calls and sent emails. Remember, people power trumps money power all day long”.
Senator Portantino’s remarks were followed by Glendale Mayor Vartan Gharpetian who spoke on behalf of all four Councilmembers present stated, “As the proud Mayor of our Jewel City and the home to more than 100,000 Armenian-Americans, I called the actions of Americana at Brand, as too insulting, and too far from advocating for human rights.”
“Today, I am pleased that Caruso Affiliated took the necessary steps to learn about the historical facts and acknowledging the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide in their letter of apology received today,” he added.
In the final statement provided by the Armenian Bar Association, Board member Garo Ghazarian, Esq. stated, “Yet, we still demand. We demand that Mr. CARUSO deliver to the public an open apology from the Americana for their reckless manipulation of Armenian history; We also demand that Mr. Caruso ensure — in swift fashion — that information about arts projects, education, and public outreach addressing the Armenian Genocide enjoy the full light of day and the bright lights of public display at the Americana. Time was running out an hour ago. Time, is now up.”
The Press conference ended with final words by Asatryan thanking the “grassroots and the community organizations that rose to the occasion, and “specifically State Senator Anthony Portantino who joined us on the ground from day one, members of the Glendale City Council who supported our position, as well as US Congressman Adam Schiff, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian.”
Leading up to the press conference, ANCA Glendale submitted letters to The Americana at Brand and Caruso Affiliated requesting an immediate meeting and action to rectify this situation. On August 9, 2017, the organization also launched a letter and call in campaign available at www.ancaglendale.org/endthegag. The action alert resulted in over 10,000 emails and phone calls to the management. from residents, business owners and customers of the establishment, calling for immediate action.
On Tuesday, August 15, Executive Producers of “Architects of Denial,” Montel Williams and Dean Cain released a statement noting “The seriousness of this issue cannot and should not be understated. This is no longer about our movie or an advertisement. This is about vindicating the dignity of the victims and the survivors of a genocide.”
The same evening, dozens of community leaders and members, including ANCA Glendale Chair Artin Manoukian and State Senator Anthony Portantino took to the Glendale City Council to provide powerful testimonies and ask the city to take immediate action in resolving the matter. The Councilmembers ended the oral communication section by condemning Caruso Affiliated’s decision and agendizing the matter for the next city council meeting.
Elected officials and community organizations present at the press conference included CA State Senator Anthony Portantino, Glendale Mayor Vartan Gharpetian, Glendale Councilmembers Ara Najarian, Zareh Sinanyan, Paula Devine, Vrej Aghajanian, Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian, Glendale Unified School District Board President Nayiri Nahabedian and members Dr. Armine Gharpetian and Shant Sahakian, Glendale Community College Board President Dr. Armine Hacopian and Trustee Yvette Vartanian Davis, and Crescenta Valley Town Council President Harry Leon.
In addition to the attendees, the following organizations also joined ANCA Glendale as coalition partners in an official call to action: American Hellenic Council, ANCA La Crescenta, Burbank, Hollywood Chapters, Armenian American Chamber of Commerce, Armenian American Council on Aging, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian Cultural Foundation, Armenian Educational Foundation, Armenian Society of Los Angeles, Armenian Youth Association of California, Armenian Relief Society – Glendale Chapter, Assyrian American Association of Southern CA, Committee for Armenian Students in Public Schools, Davidian/Mariamian Educational Foundation, Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter, Glendale Teachers Association, Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural & Educational Society – Glendale Chapter, Korean American Forum of California, Korea Glendale Sister City Association, New Joulfa Zartonk Association, Richard Tufenkian Pre-School, SEYFO Center – Assyrian Genocide Research Center, SWANA-LA (Southwest Asian And North Afric an – Los Angeles ), Urmia Armenian Society, Vahan and Anoush Chamilian School.