CULVER CITY, Calif.—With loud chants of “Obama, Keep Your Promise,” more than 1,500 community members gathered at the Sony Picture Studios Thursday afternoon for a demonstration urging the president, who is on a fundraising trip to Los Angeles, to keep his campaign promise and recognize the Armenian Genocide.
When addressing the crowd that gathered in front of the studio gates, System of A Down frontman and human rights activist Serj Tankian urged protesters to face the gate and by raising their right fist continuously repeat “As President, I will recognize the Genocide,” a familiar campaign promise made by then candidate Obama during the 2008 presidential race.
For more than 15 minutes, the excited crowd heeded Tankian’s call and then urged the president to honor his promises.
In his remarks, Tankian thanked the demonstrators and explained that the gathering was not just for the Obama Administration’s broken promise about the Genocide, but also to echo collective disappointment in all the campaign promises that the president has not kept.
Tankian highlighted that justice and human rights must prevail and urged the community to continue its activism and press ahead.
Community activist Hovan Tashdjian addressed the crowd in Armenian and reiterated the community’s disappointment in the failure for the Obama Administration to adhere to its promises, while pointing out that the Turkish government, which Obama seeks to appease, is still pursuing the very policies that led to the Genocide.
Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Board chairman, Andrew Kzirian informed the protesters that his organization had sent a letter to Obama asking him to lay a wreath at the Montebello Armenian Martyrs’ Monument during his Los Angeles-area visit.
Kzirian explained that the ANCA-WR received a form letter back from the White House claiming a conflict in the president schedule.
“As President Obama embarks on his re-election campaign, the Armenian American community and anti-genocide activists of conscience are still waiting for him to demonstrate Presidential leadership to fulfill his 2008 promise by reaffirming the Armenian Genocide during his annual proclamation,” stated Kzirian.
“Coming to California, home to nearly a million descendants of the survivors of this Genocide, the president could have taken a strong step in that direction by visiting the Armenian Genocide Martyr’s Memorial in Montebello,” he added.
The brief program, which culminated in much louder chants from the protest, was kicked off by Asbarez English Editor, Ara Khachatourian, who in his remarks explained that he was part of the Armenians for Obama effort in 2008, adding that the president must face his voters and keep his campaign promise.
He added that Obama kicked off his re-election campaign by asking his supporters the simple question: “Are you in?”
“Well, Mr. President, we are not ‘in,’ unless you keep your promise and not let down the voters,” said Khachatourian.
The community-wide Armenian Genocide Task Force organized the protest, representing Armenian community organizations from throughout California. Los Angeles Armenian Americans and anti-genocide activists went to the Sony Picture Studios in Culver on buses provided by the organizing community, filling up buses from Saint Mary’s Church in Glendale, the Ferrahian School in Encino, the Rose & Alex Pilibos School in Hollywood, the Armenian Apostolic Church of North Hollywood and the Pasadena Armenian Center.
Almost all local channels were broadcasting live from the venue, and led their afternoon broadcasts with the news of the protest and interviewed organizers about the purpose of the protest.
In a series of letters and statements issued as Senator and candidate, President Obama pledged to clearly and unequivocally end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial and properly recognize this crime against humanity. In a January 18, 2008 statement, in the days leading up to the Super Tuesday Primary in California, he stated, “As President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The complete set of Senator Obama’s statements on the Armenian Genocide are can be found here.