A demonstration at the University of Southern California turned to chaos Friday when violence erupted between Armenia protesters and Turkish diplomats.
The violence broke out following a conference on Turkish foreign policy at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Armenian students and community members were protesting the timing of the conference when things grew heated.
Video captured a handful of protestors chasing after the diplomats, including the Turkish Ambassador, yelling and throwing bottles at them.
When one of the diplomats was backed up against the wall, fists started flying.
“It’s incredibly shameful that USC Annenberg chooses to host an event like this in this time of mourning,” Sonia Meroian, a board member on the Armenian Student Association, told KTLA. “I know USC ASA only had condoned peaceful demonstrations and the peaceful actions of the students. With regard to anybody who was not a student, we don’t represent them, and we won’t talk on their behalf.”
Turkish-Armenian relations have historically been hostile. Organizers of Friday’s protest were trying to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis impacting thousands of Armenians in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Demonstrators are urging more action from the United States and sanctions against Azerbaijan. Despite political disagreements, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Los Angeles is denouncing the violence.
“There’s a room and a way and a place to dissent and express that dissention, but certainly violence is never the answer, is never an acceptable tool, not in America,” Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of CAIR-LA, said.
The USC Turkish Graduate Association put out a statement that read in part:
“This incident has deeply affected our sense of security and belonging. It has become daunting for us to proudly embrace and share our cultural identity at USC. The growing negative attitude towards those of Turkish origin is a cause for serious concern.”
KTLA has learned that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit is handling the investigation and is looking into the criminal threats and battery incidents as possible hate crimes.