LOS ANGELES (FOX 11 / CNS) - Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Little Armenia area outside Hollywood Tuesday for the first of two marches to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which Turkey insists did not happen.
The first gathering, organized by Unified Young Armenians, began near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, where participants waved flags and began a circular march through the area, denouncing the genocide and calling on the United States government to officially recognize it.
"It's an important thing for the Armenian community, and hopefully to spread awareness to American citizens,'' one participant said.
Another said simply, "We're here to demand for the entire world to recognize the Armenian Genocide.''
The thousands of marchers embarked on a circular route east on Hollywood Boulevard, south on Normandie Avenue, west on Sunset Boulevard then north on Hobart Boulevard. Los Angeles police said all the affected streets will be closed until at least 3 p.m.
A second rally, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee, will begin around midday at Pan Pacific Park at 7600 Beverly Blvd., ending at the Turkish Consulate at 6300 Wilshire Blvd. The march will proceed south adjacent to The Grove shopping center, then west on Third Street, south on Fairfax Avenue then west on Wilshire Boulevard.
LAPD officials said all streets affected by the march will be closed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Armenian genocide began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in a campaign blamed on the Ottoman Turkish government. While the genocide has been chronicled by historians, who often view it as having been ethnic cleansing, Turkey has denied it occurred, saying the deaths of Armenians was a function of the chaos of World War I, which also claimed Turkish lives.
More than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County, making the Southland home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia.
Despite calls by some legislators -- most notably Rep. Adam Schiff, D- Burbank -- for the federal government to formally recognize the genocide, U.S. presidents have long refused to do so. President Donald Trump last year continued that tradition in his first year in office, issuing a statement denouncing the deaths as ``one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th Century'' but failing to use the term ``genocide.''
Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, also failed to recognize the genocide during his eight years in office, despite indications during his original campaign that he would do so.
Gov. Jerry Brown issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring a Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
"Between 1915 and 1923, Armenians were subjected to torture, starvation, mass murder and exile from their historic homeland,'' according to the proclamation. ``1.5 million lost their lives. The Armenian Genocide, also known as the `First Genocide of the Twentieth Century,' represented a deliberate attempt by the Ottoman Empire to eliminate all traces of a thriving, noble civilization.''