The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) local and national leadership and a group of leaders from Armenian organizations met with City of Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse, Police Chief Mark Stainbrook, and City Manager Nancy Hunt-Coffey, who came to Glendale on February 10th to discuss the anti-Armenian flyers seen on the route of a protest organized by the Armenian Youth Federation in response to Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh.
The flyers, which lined utility poles from the Federal Building to the Azerbaijani Consulate in Los Angeles, threatened that a group of countries, including Azerbaijan and Turkey, would “wipe Armenia off the map” – a brazen incitement of genocidal sentiments against the Armenian people.
After the flyers were discovered, the leadership of ANCA local chapters immediately alerted area elected officials and law enforcement to the incident. In response to the incident, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse condemned the incitement of anti-Armenian hate, stating that “hate has no place in Beverly Hills or anywhere. I will always stand up, I will always speak out.” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass also issued a comment, remarking, “there is no place for anti-Armenian hatred in Los Angeles or anywhere else.”
“Armenian-Americans are outraged by this latest act of hate directed against our community,” remarked Armenian National Committee of America National Board Member Zanku Armenian. “The meeting with City of Beverly Hills representatives is an important first step in starting a dialogue to confront the hate and persecution against the Armenian community. No community should have to endure such treatment.”
A number of organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Southern California, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) of Los Angeles, and Jewish World Watch (JWW), swiftly condemned the hateful flyers.
Initially, the Beverly Hills Police Department announced it was investigating the anti-Armenian flyers posted in the city but concluded, based on previous similar incidents, that they are protected free speech. However, in the meeting representatives Steve Dadaian and Armen Hovannisian of the Armenian Bar Association shared detailed information about anti-Armenian incidents in California which have led to attacks and violence against the community in recent years. They outlined how in 2020, the Armenian-American community of San Francisco was subject to a string of hate-fueled attacks on community property. Three separate incidents involving hateful vandalism on the property of the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan (KZV) Armenian School, a subsequent drive-by shooting at school property, and an arson attack on the St. Gregory Apostolic Church followed the ruthless incitement of anti-Armenian hatred by Azerbaijan’s government in the immediate lead up to the 2020 Artsakh War.
Other leaders shared that a year prior, Armenian schools in Los Angeles were vandalized with Turkish flags – a cruel act designed to sow fear amongst the student body while hateful rhetoric and acts continued unchecked by Azerbaijan against Armenia and Artsakh. The Beverly Hills Police Chief expressed understanding and said they will continue to keep the investigation open to gather additional intelligence that could lead to potential perpetrators and to ensure the safety of the community.
The anti-Armenian flyers come amidst Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh, which has deprived the region’s 120,000 Armenians of access to food, fuel, heat, electricity, medicine, and other vital supplies for two months in freezing conditions – which is nothing less than an attempt at genocide through starvation and creating unlivable conditions for the region’s indigenous Armenian population.
“As one of the speakers during the AYF protest against Azerbaijan’s genocidal campaign against the Armenians of Artsakh, when I saw the anti-Armenian hate flyers calling for a genocide against my people again, it hit me hard but strengthened my resolve to stand up against this, especially in this country,” remarked ANCA Hollywood Chair Lara Yeretsian in the meeting with the Beverly Hills representatives. Yeretsian stressed the importance for Beverly Hills city leadership to understand the depth and magnitude of this issue. Beverly Hills Mayor Bosse empathized and shared her own family’s history from the Holocaust and assured those in attendance how seriously she takes the issue of hate crimes in her city. “Hate speech can lead to violence and so we must fight it at every opportunity,” said Bosse.
For decades, Azerbaijan has incited anti-Armenian hatred across all levels of society – and is now enacting a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Armenians of Artsakh through this cruel blockade. During the meeting, ANCA representatives also briefed local officials on the persistent incitement of anti-Armenian hatred by Azerbaijani government officials both in Azerbaijan and abroad, noting how Azerbaijan’s state-sponsored policy of Armenophobia fueled attacks on Armenian communities not just in the United States but across the world.
Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive member Tenny Alaverdian closed the meeting saying, “Against the backdrop of Azerbaijan’s relentless incitement of hatred against our community, the threat of anti-Armenian violence is something we take very seriously. We are grateful for the opportunity to convey our concerns to Beverly Hills City officials and look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure the safety of our community.”
Earlier in the day, the Beverly Hills representatives met with their counterparts in the City of Glendale, including Mayor Ardy Kassakhian, Police Chief Manny Cid, and City Manager Roubik Golanian, to exchange thoughts about this situation and commit to working together to stand up against this kind of anti-Armenian hatred. “We must take active steps in fighting this kind of persecution of our communities because this has global roots to it starting with the rhetoric coming from Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s leadership,” said Mayor Kassakhian after the meeting. “We have seen how this hateful culture gives way to acts of violence affecting any community, which cannot be tolerated.”
ANCA Glendale chair Lucy Petrosian reinforced the importance of collaboration between the Cities of Glendale and Beverly Hills. “We appreciate that our mayor, police chief, and city manager met with their counterparts from Beverly Hills to address this serious issue. We are hopeful that the cooperation between these two great cities will lead to meaningful steps toward reducing the possibility of future anti-Armenian acts or violence and, by doing so, will make our cities safer and hate-free for all communities.”