ARMENIANS PROTESTING FOR PEACE IN FRESNO 

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Hovhannes Torikyan, Writer

 

The Fresno Armenian Community has been frequently protesting the Azerbaijani invasion of Artsakh by gathering on major intersections and meeting at City Hall since October 4th to raise awareness about the situation. The protests are aimed towards raising awareness to both the local, state, national, and international community, along with calling on the US to sanction Turkey for its involvement. 

Hayk Grigoryan

The first gathering of such occurred on October 4th at Fresno City Hall, to gain support from the local community, and to raise awareness of the situation to the Fresno community leaders. The gathering of people soon moved to Blackstone and Nees, a very popular intersection in Fresno. The protests have remained peaceful since the first day, with people gathering almost every day.  Many of the protestors even went to help at the very large Golden Gate Protest in San Francisco and the record-breaking Los Angeles protest with an estimated 150,000 people marching. 

The most common chant during the protest was “Turkey wants war, Armenia wants Peace.” This accurately reflected the goals of the protest as the goal was to raise awareness and call for peace in the region. When asked what message they are trying to spread, Narek Manucharyan, a 17-year-old protestor replied with “We’re trying to spread peace, we don’t want any fighting. We don’t want it to escalate where many kids our age die. We’re trying to have the biggest impact we can while we’re here in America.” This answer was also shown by some of the signs the protestors were carrying.  These signs showed pictures of soldiers and some had the names of all the service members who had died defending Artsakh. 

Any messages to Turkey or Azerbaijan were strictly towards their governments and invading armies. Nowhere in the chants, conversations, or interviews did anyone say something about the civilians living in either countries. “We’re here to love. The biggest chant we’ve been chanting is “Armenians wants peace”. We just want the war to stop, we want Armenian lives to stop being lost. We want Azeri lives to stop being lost, many of them are being taken away from their land to fight a war that’s not theirs. It’s the dictatorship that is really doing their people dirty and destroying the love that should be in that region” – Hovig Ohanian, 19. 

 

The protests also seem to be successful in gaining help and support from the local community. Thousands of dollars have been raised from Fresno alone and local news such as ABC30 and FOX26 have been at the scene interviewing protestors and reporting on the events which helps raise awareness. When asked how people can help support the people living in Artsakh, Kristina Ikezyan, 18, said “Donations and Spreading Awareness”. While this may seem like a very basic answer, it’s really the best answer at this point. National and International news have largely been ignoring the conflict that is going on in Armenia. With the help of protests, it has gotten the attention of local media, and so now the Armenian community is trying to get the attention of bigger news and possibly the White House. As for donations, the ArmeniaFund, a donation page, has raised over 100 million dollars, all of which is being spent on humanitarian aid bound for Armenia and Artsakh. Hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid from different countries across the world have arrived in Yerevan, Armenia to be used to help the civilians, however. However, on October 15, Turkey has banned the delivery of aid to Armenia from the United States, which has delayed the shipment of over 100 tons of aid. “We’re helping them [Armenia] too, just by raising money. Coming out here, we’re united, we’re showing that we’re together, we’re standing together, we’re showing our support” – Boris Aghakhanyan, 16.  

 

The protests aren’t expected to die down any time soon as the people say, “the spirit is high”. The location of the Fresno protests is expected to change to a different location soon. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians from around the world have voiced their support for their friends and families. 

 

Gift from Fresno to Armenia: 

During the protest in Fresno, 19-year-old Hovig Ohanian brought a very large flag that his grandmother that knitted. The flag was carried by several people while others were asked to put paint on their hands and put handprints on the flag. The protestors then proceeded to put their handprints on the blue/middle section of the Armenian red, blue, and orange tri-color flag. The blue was soon filled with dozens of handprints. However, this flag still had a journey ahead of it. The flag was then taken to San Francisco the very next day for the Golden Gate Protest, where the protestors filled the orange section with their handprints, carrying on the message started in Fresno. The flag still had one more stop before it would make its way to Artsakh. The Yeragoyn”, the Armenian name for the tri-color flag, would be the taken to the record-breaking Los Angeles protest. Here the protestors would put their handprints on the red section of the flag. The protest was estimated to have 100-150 thousand people, so filling the red with handprints wouldn’t be an issue. After the handprints were placed, the flag was then carried along the march. The aerial photos of the protest soon went viral, with even the Prime Minister of Armenia sharing the photo on his Instagram page. In this photo, you can see the flag that was made by Hovig’s grandmother, that started its journey in Fresno, and travelled around California getting hundreds of handprints, before it would be sent to Artsakh as a sign of support. 

 

 

 

 

Left: Flag being carried at Los Angeles protest on October 11th.    Right: Flag getting handprints from Fresno Armenians on October 9th