On the same day Joe Biden became the first sitting U.S. president to formally recognize the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire a century ago as a genocide, crowds took to the streets in the Los Angeles area Saturday to mark the 106th anniversary of the beginning of the violence.
To commemorate Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, Armenian Americans gathered for a march in the Little Armenia area in Hollywood.
Around noon, hundreds were seen in the area of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, where a stage was set up in the roadway and people were waving red, blue and orange Armenian flags, video from Sky5 showed.
A crowd of protesters also gathered outside the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills. Wilshire Boulevard was temporarily closed in both directions from La Cienega Boulevard to Stanley Drive as the demonstration took place.
On a day marked annually with sorrow for the lives lost and a multi-generational call for recognition of the atrocities that took place more than a century ago, this year’s commemorative march was different as L.A.’s Armenian Americans said their voices were finally heard, though usually adding that more work needs to be done.
“I’m just very happy that President Joe Biden actually did what he promised he would do,” said Narine Manusyants, speaking through an Armenian flag face mask as she stood amidst the crowd Sunday.
As a candidate, Biden pledged to acknowledge the genocide formally. Due to pressure from Turkey, previous presidents avoided using the word once in office.
The Los Angeles region is home to a large community of Armenian Americans, who for decades have called on the U.S. government to formally recognize the killings as a genocide. Biden’s use of the word was important for the tight-knit community.
“To see the unity of my people in one place, even though we are the diaspora and not actually in Armenia, it’s very empowering to be part of it,” said Beatrice Minasyan, who was among those who gathered in Hollywood.
Hundreds of people also flocked to a monument in Montebello, where they laid flowers and said prayers for the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti commended Biden’s statement Saturday.
“Today, President Joe Biden made history by becoming the first U.S. President to speak the truth in all the dark realities of the past, and recognize the undeniable fact of the Armenian Genocide,” the mayor said. “This day is long overdue, and it is 106 years in the making.”
Turkey continues to deny that what took place was a genocide, and the country reacted to Biden’s statement with condemnation. Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara to protest the use of the term.