The view could be seen from high above: the bright and shining tricolors of the Armenian flag held proudly by Armenian youth. The traditional music of the Armenian people could be heard reverberating around Times Square: Armenian dancers performing the Kochari as one hundred white doves glided the air in honor of the Armenian martyrs.
In the face of ongoing denial, the response was loud and clear not only to Turkey but to the world: in the wake of decimation, the Armenians have only grown stronger, buoyed by a passionate youth, as an unprecedented number of supporters flocked to the heart of Times Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on Sunday, April 26.
Over 15,000 people including Jews, Greeks, Turks, Assyrians, Cypriots and Kurds stood side by side with Armenians in solidarity to honor the 1.5 million lives lost and to demand justice from the Turkish government for their crimes against humanity.
Although the visible reminder of the Armenian Genocide, the brave survivors, were no longer present in the audience, descendants took their place and carried on their memory through their significant presence and a procession that spanned miles, traveling from St. Vartan Cathedral at 34th St. and 2nd avenue all the way to Times Square. The exceptional and well-executed event organized by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan for the past 30 years, once again drew the East Coast to the crossroads of the world and showed the heart and devotion of the Armenian people.
Staunch supporters of Armenian Genocide recognition in the U.S., who appear loyally on stage every April and work behind the scenes throughout the year to bolster the Armenian Republic and Diaspora, were in attendance, including Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who called the Armenian Genocide, “one of the darkest events in human history.” He called upon President Obama to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide and said he was disappointed the President had lost his “moral compass.”
“We must not make it the policy of the United States to turn our backs on anywhere genocide occurs,” said Menendez, who as chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee worked tirelessly to pass Resolution 410, demanding that the U.S. acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. “When we do so, we empower those who use genocide as a weapon of war.”
Traveling straight from Armenia where he attended Armenian Genocide commemorations in Yerevan, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) praised the Diasporan Armenians for their accomplishments regarding genocide recognition.
“You have made great progress,” said Pallone, counting the many countries as well as U.S states that have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide.
Pallone reiterated that Turkey must acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and pay reparations. He also noted his support of an independent Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We in the Armenian Caucus will not rest until Congress and the President declare the Armenian Genocide as a genocide.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Smith, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation, which is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides, said he stood alongside everyone in the name of memory, peace, humanity, justice and truth in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
“It was no accident of history,” said Smith. “It was designed, it was planned, and it was ordered.”
Smith stated that no one has the power to deny the truth and to control the past. He vowed that the perpetrators will not get away with murder.
“Fact always prevails over falsehood,” said Smith. “If you deny the past, you’re powerless in the present.”
Noting the strength and collective spirit of the Armenian community, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said, “empires have risen and fallen, but you’re still here.”
Schumer recalled the founder of the Armenian Genocide Times Square Commemoration, Sam Azadian, who introduced the senator to the history of the Armenian Genocide when he was a newly elected assemblyman
“In his memory, I am here to fight this fight with you,” said Schumer. “I stand here with you in labeling the atrocities committed against the Armenian people as what it was, genocide. No denier can take that away from you.”
As he took the podium, New York City Council Member Paul Vallone (D-NY) encouraged everyone to chant “Armenia!” Delivering on his promise in previous years to make sure the Armenian Genocide is recognized in the state of New York, the councilman proudly presented the proclamation to the audience and read it aloud for all to hear.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) restated her support of the Armenians and refused to let anyone forget the Armenian Genocide.
“The Armenian tragedy is our tragedy,” said Maloney. “We will be with you until it’s in the textbooks of Turkey.
Esteemed Turkish historian and academic Taner Akcam, a trailblazer in openly acknowledging and discussing the Armenian Genocide, said he was representing “another” Turkey, consisting of people who are ready to rediscover their past and to erase the “black stain” on their history.