NEW YORK–Armenian Americans in the eastern United states formed a picket line today across the street from the New York Palace Hotel, where Armenia President Serge Sarkisian was scheduled to meet with representatives of Armenian American organizations to discuss the controversial Armenia-Turkey protocols.
Blockades and guardrails contained picketers who held signs proclaiming, “Don’t compromise Armenia’s future!” “Armenians Want Justice!” “Turkey Accept the Genocide!” and “No to the Protocols!”
Picketers held small Armenian flags and chanted, “Sarkisian, tavajan [traitor],” “Sarkisian, can’t you see? You can’t sell our legacy!” and “No more protocols, No more lies!” A large banner directed to Sarkisian declared, “Do Not Betray the Armenian Nation!”
From the picket’s start the mood was serious and the demonstrators were indignant and angry. The atmosphere quickly grew intense with chants of “Turkey is guilty! Turkey must pay!” Early on, the crowd sang Armenia’s national anthem, “Mer Hairenik” (“Our Fatherland”).
Sarkisian and meeting attendees were already in the hotel when the picket began at 4 p.m. The meeting was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and last for over two hours.
The area inside and outside the hotel was heavily guarded by New York City police officers and plain-clothed agents, as well as Sarkisian’s own security guards.
In the hotel, a small group of protesters representing the Association of Concerned Young Armenian Americans attempted to deliver a letter to Sarkisian expressing their opposition to the protocols. They were met with resistance. During a heated discussion with members of the president’s security team, they demanded to deliver their letter personally to Sarkisian, saying that too much discussion on the protocols was occurring behind closed doors and challenging Sarkisian to honor his earlier promises to hear all opinions on the protocols during his tour of major diasporan cities.
Security permitted one of the young people to enter the secure area near the meeting room to deliver the letter, only if the others left the building. The association’s representative was told to wait until Sarkisan’s meeting concluded to deliver the letter. After waiting for over three hours to deliver the message from Armenian American youth—with no response from Sarkisian—the representative departed with the letter in hand.
At around 7 p.m., as the picket entered its final minutes, dozens of picketers moved from the picket area across the street to assemble directly in front of the Palace Hotel’s entrance, where they chanted and sang Armenian patriotic songs.
Police moved in to force picketers out of the area and back across the street from the hotel, where they remained until dispersing around 7:30 p.m.