BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Continuing from my last piece about Genocide related activities, I must say, things were continuing to look good. Wednesday morning greeted us with Tim Rutten’s op-ed piece in the LA Times “Obama’s lack of moral clarity on Armenian genocide issue.” This was particularly pleasing since I’d communicated with him last fall when he’d written positively about the ADL (you know, the leaders of the Jewish community’s denialist camp). He’d conveyed to me his conviction that appropriate recognition for the Armenian Genocide was something he had been committed to since the 1970s. Thank you Tim Rutten.
But things started to look less rosy that very night of Wednesday April 20. The annual event organized by Glendale’s high schools’ Armenian Clubs was attended more sparsely than previous years, certainly not exceeding 400, and probably much less. The very sparseness of the people made it hard to count. But, the program was good, probably the second best one in this event’s decade-long history. The three member band that played to close was particularly appealing. The young speakers integrated ongoing developments surrounding our cause well. One young man issued an appeal trilingually— Armenian, English, and Spanish, a very good touch indicating an appreciation for the need to do more outreach. They even managed to find a survivor who was still ambulatory and spoke well! The opening speaker was a good choice, a noted coach, serving as a role model, though some of his comments seemed to be a bit extreme.
Thursday the 21st was also a good day. The demonstration held at Sony Studios saw some 750 of us (by far the largest of the groups which were protesting regarding various issues) raising our voices against Obama’s utterly unacceptable, mealy-mouthed utterances and his reneging on the Genocide recognition promise that escaped his campaign-mode lips. Serj Tankian’s participation and speaking were important in the context of this action. The only thing missing was a loud chant of “liar, liar, pants on fire” when the president’s motorcade went by.
Thursday night, I went to a screening of “The Lark Farm”, the film based on Antonia Arslan’s novel Skylark Farm. While a bit slow moving (as I’m told many European films are), the movie was compelling and succeeded in conveying a very human picture of the Genocide, with good and bad shown among the Turkish characters. In this light, what’s more interesting is the Turkish government’s typical antics. Arslan was present, and told of when the novel was first published. It remained “under the radar”, gaining popularity in Italy. By the time it had reached the top of the lists, it was too late for the Turks to do anything. But when word got out that it was being made into a movie by the famous Taviani brothers, Ankara’s machinery started grinding. Erdoghan wrote Berlusconi who in turn put his culture minister on the matter. The latter managed to put it on a back-burner, and the moviemakers were made to understand that they’d be able to practice their craft. Imagine that at one point, Gul, a PRESIDENT, showed up on the movie’s set! Gotta love those Turkish government types- they just don’t get it— denial breeds even more commitment and action, by everyone. The film was first screened in Turkish-immigrant heavy Germany!
Interestingly, and worrisomely, I was unaware of anything happening Friday night, April 22nd. By this time, I was convinced it was a bad year, especially since the annual, jointly organized, gathering at the Montebello Martyrs Monument had been moved from the day of April 24 to the day before. Why? Because it conflicted with Easter! More on this separately… As it turned out, that gathering, to which I was late in arriving, was pathetic. Usually, the 3-4000 carnations purchased for people to lay at the eternal flame are all used. This year, there were still plenty as the program was nearing its end. Even factoring in people coming and going, no more than 800 were present during the time I was there. If anyone who was there doubts this, consider that the overflow parking opened up for this event that is usually filled, was more than half empty!
From Montebello, I raced, with my recent-Texas-transplant cousin in tow, to Ferrahian’s campus whence the AYF Sardarabad Chapter was staging its 3rd Annual “Cycle Against Denial”. The event was good, holding steady at around 250 riders, with the shared T-shirts serving to catch car drivers’ eyes along the ten mile loop we rode. It would be better to have a small gathering immediately afterwards, or perhaps immediately before starting, to explain the point of the ride. When some people start riding on the sidewalk, it can be counterproductive to the goal of winning supporters to our cause. This kind of message and PR sensitivity must be conveyed to the participants.
An unfortunate bicycle related development was the first-time ride organized by an Armenian cycling group from Glendale to the Montebello monument and back. This is a great idea. Scheduling it the day of, and just before, the AYF’s ride, is not. I’ll also take this opportunity to once again advocate my “convergence” idea. Bicycles from the San Fernando Valley, marchers from Hollywood, and automobiles from the Montebello monument should all converge on the Turkish consulate. Not only would this maximize participation at the politically most relevant event of the April 24th season, but it would also create much more awareness along the routes taken by the three processions!
The Unified Young Armenians’ (UYA) Hollywood march was also weak this year, fitting the pattern. While held at its traditional time and day, the morning of April 24, it started EXTREMELY late and was in reverse order. The speakers presented first then everyone was to walk. I could not stay for the walking. By my count, significantly fewer than 5,000 people were present. This is the worst showing ever for this event, and truly a cause for concern.
The AYF’s demonstration at the Los Angeles Consulate General of Turkey was no exception. Numbers, by my count, were down to below 2,000, and that, on a Sunday, with no work-related time conflicts with the 4 p.m. start time. The energy was present, the slogans were tried and true ones, and the final speeches were very strong and manifested the slow, but very desirable shift in our focus from just Genocide recognition to reparations and return of lands.
Due to scheduling conflicts and simple fatigue, respectively, I was unable to attend the event organized by the City of Glendale on April 25th (the only one; in previous years they’ve had weeklong activities- yet another bad sign) and the two Saturday night, April 23, events. These were both vigils, one organized by the UYA outside the Glendale Civic Auditorium, and the other, which also had a musical component, organized by the Montebello ANC at the monument. I was told both were poorly attended.
Stay tuned for my interpretation of this year’s poor showing next week. Clearly, not many heeded my pleas to participate maximally in our gatherings, rallies, and other events.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In his review of Genocide commemoration activities, the author provides attendance counts of events, which stem from his own observations. The official numbers which were reported, such as in the case of the AYF protest at the Turkish Consulate on April 24, do not correspond with the author’s calculations.