LOS ANGELES (AP) - Tens of thousands of people marched in Los Angeles on Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during the Ottoman Empire, and to press for recognition by Turkey and U.S. that it was genocide.
Throngs carried flags and signs, and most wore black on the 6-mile walk under gray skies from Little Armenia to the Turkish Consulate, which rejects the characterization of genocide.
A slogan emblazoned on shirts read: “You cannot silence history. Genocide is no mystery.”
The event comes after President Barack Obama once again stopped short of calling the 1915 killings genocide, going back on a campaign promise and prompting anger in the Armenian community.
“I was extremely disappointed in Obama,” said Andrea Marootian, 54, of San Diego. “As an American, I’m disappointed. As an Armenian, I’m disappointed.”
The eighth-grade teacher said her great-grandfather and many other relatives were among those killed.
“I was 13 when my mother took me to a march and to a memorial,” Marootian said. “I wondered, ‘Why is everybody crying?’ My dad said, ‘They lost their families in Armenia.’”
Catherine Bosnoian, 8, of suburban Glendale, marched with her mother, Tailian, an Armenian immigrant from Syria.
Catherine said she learned about the killings in history class at the Armenian school she attends.
“I learned that Armenians were taken out of their houses,” the second-grader said. “We have to remember them.”
Also marching was Fabrizio Mancinelli, 36, a composer from Italy who moved to Glendale to be with his fiancee, Talar Tavlian, 34, who is of Armenian descent and whose grandparents were orphaned in the tragedy.
“I share with her this wish, for the recognition by the Turkish government, he said. “It’s never too late to recognize a crime. It’s never too late to face your past.”
The march was “pretty peaceful” and no major incidents had been reported by early afternoon, said Officer Tony Im, a spokesman at police headquarters.
Earlier this month, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Francis described the killings as genocide. The European Parliament also triggered Turkey’s ire by passing a nonbinding resolution to commemorate the “centenary of the Armenian genocide.”
Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide.
“We commemorate with deep respect the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives during the relocation in 1915, and we share in the grief of their children and grandchildren,” the Los Angeles office of the Consulate General of Turkey said in a statement Thursday. “But we are against exploiting history and the sufferings for political purposes. … The term ‘genocide’ is a legally binding, morally obstructing, historically wrong and politically misused concept that prevents the discussion of the events.”
Officially using the genocide designation could risk U.S. relations with Turkey, an important ally.
Turkey withdrew its U.S. ambassador more than four years ago when a House panel approved a resolution branding the killing of Armenians as genocide. The resolution eventually stalled.
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