ENCINO, Calif.—Nearly 200 Armenian students, parents, teachers, professionals, and activists marched in a community-wide walk in the San Fernando Valley on February 1 in a sign of solidarity to two Armenian schools, where hate crimes were committed. The walk was initiated and led by the Armenian Youth Federation-Western United States San Fernando Valley “Sardarabad” Chapter.
The walk was organized as a show of community unity and resilience in response to the vandalism that occurred at both Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School and AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School—an incident that the Los Angeles Police Department is currently investigating as a hate crime. In the early morning hours of Tuesday January 29, multiple Turkish flags were placed at both schools, which received condemnations from multiple Armenian community organizations, LA City Councilmembers, and the LA City Attorney’s office, among others.
The walk began at 4 p.m. at Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School, where participants were briefed on safety precautions, equipped with signs, provided the Armenian and American flags, and reminded of the purpose of the walk. LAPD was present to maintain order during the walk, while AYF members and high school students served as monitors, ensuring that participants stayed together while on the sidewalk. The walk consisted of an approximate 2-mile trek to the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Louise Avenue, followed by a return to the school. Signs, flags, and music served to add to the public display of unity by members of both the affected schools’ communities.
“Although participation was not mandated, students, faculty, and staff along with parents showed their support to the schools and community by voluntarily participating in big numbers”, commented Sossi Shanlian, principal of Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School.
Examples of signs carried by participants read “Ferrahian Stands Strong,” “AGBU Against Hate Crimes,” and “Love, Not Hate.”
Arpi Avanesian, principal of AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, commented: “Incidents like the one that happened will continue, unfortunately, despite all the condemnations and support. It is up to us to remain united against such tests of our resolve in abolishing hate from our lives forever and pursuing justice and recognition of the Genocide that the Armenian nation endured.”
“It’s very important for the community to express their solidarity with the Armenian students of Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School and AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School following the hate crimes that took place last Tuesday,” said Karine Khodanian, a member of the AYF San Fernando Valley “Sardarabad” Chapter’s executive body. “I felt so proud as a Ferrahian alumna to witness the resilience of the younger generation to step up and show that these type of acts in our community are intolerable and unacceptable.”
Following the walk, the boys’ freshman and sophomore and girls’ junior varsity basketball teams of both Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School and AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School played their scheduled games against one another.
Founded in 1933 with organizational structures in over 17 regions around the world and a legacy of over eighty years of community involvement, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the world, working to advance the social, political, educational, and cultural awareness of Armenian youth.