Hundreds protest against Azerbaijan’s aggression toward Armenia and Artsakh

Sloane Bozzi and Mano Baghjajian

BRENTWOOD — Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the Azerbaijan Consulate in Brentwood on Wednesday evening to protest against Azerbaijan aggression toward Armenia and the Artsakh region.

The Armenian Youth Federation organized the protest on the heels of continuous clashes between the two countries’ militaries over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Protest organizers from the Armenian Youth Federation speak to the crowd of protesters while standing on top of a U-Haul truck draped with an Armenian flag in front of the Azerbaijan Consulate in Brentwood on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (Mano Baghjajian)

Skirmishes, which began last July, have led up to these recent conflicts. Both nations declared martial law and mobilized their militaries, according to DW News.

Since the start of this most recent series of fighting on Sept. 27, the number of casualties including civilians is over 100 people according to international news channel France24.

“The international community has been reluctant to say that the Azeris are the aggressors in this conflict,” said Alex Galitsky, the communications director of the Armenian National Committee of America Western. “Armenia has been acting out of self-defense.”

On Tuesday, Azerbaijan denied shooting down an Armenian warplane with a Turkish F-16 fighter jet. Turkey has denied the incident and remains supportive of Azerbaijan.

“This is for the community at the end of the day, and our community came out strong, so we’re going to keep going until Azerbaijan stops with their anti-Armenian rhetoric,” said Hasmik Burushyan, an executive assistant from the AYF.

Dozens of Armenian flags flew among the crowd as organizers led chants from atop a U-Haul truck draped in an Armenian flag. The group shouted “stop Aliyev,” condemning the actions of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and “stay out Erdogan,” denouncing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s involvement.

“It’s painful for us as a community to gather for the situation in Artsakh, our soldiers are dying civilians are dying, but it also shows the power in our community,” Burushyan said. “When we see injustice, we’re going to be showing up at the consulate, and that’s what I saw today.”

Approximately 10 Los Angeles Police Department officers oversaw the protest with no interference.

Many of the protest’s attendees were not wearing masks, despite the number of people present and the AYF’s mandate to wear face coverings.

At 7 p.m., nearly an hour after the protest started, protesters began walking around the block chanting “no more war” and “Armenia wants peace.”

“We’re here to support Armenia and our soldiers out there fighting for our country,” Narine Gharabegi, a protester, said. “And we need other countries to support and know what Turkey and Azerbaijan have done and what they want to do to our country and take our land.”

Tadeh Der-Barseghian, a protester, spoke to Azerbaijan’s military action during the pandemic. In June, the U.N. proposed a global ceasefire in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To do this during a global pandemic? Biggest low blow ever. I don’t know how they sleep at night,” Der-Barseghian said. “We will be here [protesting] until the end no matter what, they can’t break us down.”

Protesters sang the Armenian national anthem in unison to conclude the protest at around 8 p.m.

“For too long the international community has been silent on this issue,” Galitsky said. “Silence is complicity in Azerbaijan’s war crimes.”