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Ottoman military marching band event canceled amid protests

A planned parade for an Ottoman military marching band in Hollywood has been canceled amid uproar from Armenian groups who said the event was an affront to the genocidal murders that took place in 1915.

Ottoman-Turks killed roughly 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the first modern-day genocide. Turkey has refused to acknowledge the massacre as genocide.

The permit for the parade, scheduled for Oct. 3 on Hollywood Boulevard between Highland and La Brea avenues, was pulled Wednesday, an official at the Los Angeles Police Commission said.

Hafsa Rai, a spokeswoman for the Pacifica Institute, which organized the event, said the uproar took them by surprise, pointing out that the organization’s mission is to promote intercultural dialogue.

“We are not here to offend anyone, that was never our intention,” she said.

The march was meant to stir interest for the upcoming Anatolian Cultures Festival in Costa Mesa starting Oct. 6, which celebrated all cultures that have at one time lived in what is now Turkey, including Armenians, Rai said.

But as word of the performance spread, it drew wholesale condemnation from Armenian groups, including the Armenian Youth Federation and Armenian National Committee, which called the march “tantamount to hate speech and harassment.”

The Armenian Youth Federation had planned to protest the parade, organized via a Facebook page where the reaction among users was a mix of surprise and outrage.

That the Ottoman military marching band was scheduled during a time when the Diaspora is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their homeland's republic only inflamed the reaction.

Calling the march a “blatant provocation,” Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilman Paul Krekorian said in a joint statement Wednesday that they were pleased the event was canceled, pointing out that the “Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire is a wound that continues to fester.”

Amid the uproar from the Armenian community, Rai said the Pacifica Institute started exploring ways to include other cultures in the parade. But when it became clear that some new members of the military marching band would be unable to travel out in time, organizers decided to pull the plug on the event altogether, Rai said.

“I guess we didn’t realize how long it would take,” she said.

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-- Jason Wells, Times Community News

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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