PORTLAND–Oregon–On Saturday–June 13–more than 80 Armenian-Americans–brought together by the Armenian National Committee of Oregon–gathered at the Rose Garden Civic Auditorium–site of Portland State University’s graduation ceremony–to protest the school’s decision to approve the establishment of a Turkish government funded Turkish Studies Chair.
Thousands of PSU faculty–students and their families awaiting entrance to the stadium to hear the remarks of guest commencement speaker–President Bill Clinton–listened attentively to Armenian-American demonstrators–who carried signs of protest and distributed leaflets to the crowd.
The protest also captured the attention of a score of representatives from the national and local media who conducted television and radio interviews with ANCA-WR Executive Director–Vicken Sonentz-Papazian and other protest participants.
In addition to Portland area Armenian-Americans–the demonstrators included a large gathering of San Francisco ANC and AYF members as well as representatives from the Armenian Community of Oregon and the Seattle–Washington Armenian community. Armenian-American college students from the University of California–Berkeley and Stanford University also journeyed to Portland to lend their support to the demonstration.
Thousands of copies of an open letter to President Clinton–signed by dozens of America’s most renowned academicians and writers–which appeared as a full-page advertisement in the front section of the June 13 issue of the Portland Oregonian–were distributed to the attendees of the graduation ceremony and the media.
In describing the larger than anticipated number of Armenian–Americans participating in the protest–ANC Oregon representative Diana Petrossian remarked–"The Oregon ANC is extremely pleased by the sizable turnout–enthusiasm and camaraderie demonstrated by our dear and committed friends from the Portland–San Francisco–Seattle and Los Angeles areas. Given the considerable television–radio and print coverage the demonstration received–coupled with the advertisement in the Portland Oregonian and the thousands of leaflets distributed during the events–I am confident that the Portland area public has been further sensitized to this extremely important issue," concluded Petrossian.
ANC Oregon representative–Varouj Ghazarian who–along with fellow ANC members–Petrossian–Serop Nenejian and Dr. Greg Goekjian–comprising the core organizers of the event–added–"The ANC Oregon is committed to following up this successful demonstration by moving forward with the recently established Legal Defense Fund to Protect American Academia–which was created by concerned Armenian and Greek Americans to explore legal avenues to prevent further Turkish infiltration and corruption of American academia."