On Sunday, an estimated 35,000 people protested outside of the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills, condemning the actions of both Turkey and Azerbaijan in a disputed area with neighboring Armenia.
The majority of protestors have been Los Angeles area Armenian-Americans, many of whom still have strong ties to their country several generations in. Protestors have been out in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Glendale since late September, when Turkey and Azerbaijan began with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh area of Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh, an area of mostly ethnic Armenians but controlled by Azerbaijan, has remained turbulent for decades due to calls to become independent or join Armenia. The recent conflict has each side accusing the other of provoking attacks, with continued fighting and shelling threatening to end the frail cease-fire agreement the Russian government crafted on Saturday.
“The Azerbaijanis have said that they want ‘their’ land back, but they don’t say what will happen to the Armenians there,” protestor Davit Grigoryan told the Globe. “And when we see them bombing and fighting people there like recently, what do you think they will do? Genocide, like 105 years ago.”
Another protester, Robert Malkasian, explained why the protests were so intense in Los Angeles.
“Every Armenian in Los Angeles is either originally from there or still has a lot of family and connections there. If this is affecting them, wanting to hurt our people, it’s affecting us. That’s why we’re out here.”
“We just see it constantly on social media, from people back in Armenia. Just constant violence. How did they think we were going to react with our family there in danger? We can’t fight ourselves, but we are showing them that we still support them here. We are giving money for humanitarian help, and by protesting outside of the consulate, maybe putting a little pressure on the Turkish and Azerbaijani governments here.”
The Turkish Consulate derided the protests, noting that Turkey is not involved in the current fighting.
Turkish Consul General Can Oguz said his country was not a party to the current fighting.
“Turkey has strong relations with Azerbaijan, it’s no secret,” explained Turkish Consul General Can Oguz in a statement. “It’s based on history and culture. Accusations leveled against Turkey in the recent confrontation are just aimed to distract attention from this illegal occupation and the violation of our recent cease-fire.”
Armenians in Southern California and the conflict
Southern California has a large Armenian-American population, with the center of Armenian immigration, Glendale, having over 50,000, or over a quarter of the city, comprised of people of Armenian descent.
While there have been other protests and gatherings of support in the last few weeks in Los Angeles, including large gatherings of support outside the Armenian consulate in Glendale, Sunday’s protest was by far the largest yet with an estimated 35,000 protesters. The LAPD estimated the number of protesters to be even higher, giving a figure of around 100,000.
The protest also had many political supporters, including Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.
“We stand with our brothers and sisters in Armenia & Artsakh, & the diaspora in Los Angeles,” tweeted the Mayor on Sunday. “We welcome the ceasefire and it must be respected. We need our national leadership to step up & help bring peace to the region. Turkey must disengage.”
We stand with our brothers and sisters in Armenia & Artsakh, & the diaspora in L.A.
We welcome the ceasefire and it must be respected. We need our national leadership to step up & help bring peace to the region. Turkey must disengage.
Read our letter: https://t.co/zi5UFwva5f.
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) October 11, 2020
Many political experts now say that the new fight in Armenia may have electoral impacts back home.
“For politicians in Southern California, expressing your support for the conflict, or not supporting it, can cost a lot of votes,” noted Los Angeles survey center manager Betsy Burns. “We actually introduced a new question this week because of it for some Congressional race polls in the area. There’s enough Armenian -Americans where this can change how people vote. And from initial data today, it has.”
“I can’t name the race just yet, but one candidate has gone on Twitter to support the Armenians while the other did not. The people who we polled who volunteered their ethnic identity as Armenian said they would rather support the person supporting Armenia than not enough to switch their vote. It’s made the difference of a few percentage points so far. It may not sound like much, but that’s a big shift from recent weeks.”
“Sometimes people forget just how many people of Armenian descent are here, and now, it has real election implications if our responses hold.”
As the clashes continue in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and many LA area Armenians are doing more and more, including returning to Armenia to fight, survey takers have said that they will continue to gather new information due to the election poll changes.
“New factors that change elections happen often, ” added Burns. “But rarely is it something so international and hyperlocal to a certain area of the country.
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