Armenians cheer freeway sign directing attention to genocide monument

The Armenian community in Southern California gathered at a freeway sign that points the way to a monument built to commemorate the Armenian genocide of 1915.

The sign reads, "Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument, Next Exit" and stands next to the 60 Freeway, also known as the Pomona Freeway. There are two of them that direct those interested to a memorial tower in the town of Montebello, east of downtown Los Angeles. There they can see the monument that commemorates the attempt, almost 100 years ago to eliminate Armenians from the Ottoman Empire.

The Los Angeles Times was on hand for the dedication of the sign. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Armenian Apostolic Church blessed it with a couple hundred people joining in the emotional affair. The Times caught up with one attendee, a 25 year-old man who believes in keeping the memory alive. "I'll make sure this monument resonates with my great-grandkids," he said.

Despite the U.S. government's refusal to take an official position on whether the killing of 1.5 million people of Armenian heritage was in fact a genocide, carried out by one ethnic group against another, the California state legislature decided to authorize the signs. The legislation was written by Charles Calderon, a longtime leader in both the California Senate and Assembly. He told media at the ceremony that he was moved to do so as a result of growing close to the Armenian grandmother of his childhood best friend.

April 24 each year is the date on which Armenians in Southern California travel to the Montebello monument that has been a fixture in that community since 1968. The structure is set in Bicknell Park and those that gather on that date lay flowers at the base of the monument near a plaque that reads, "This monument erected by Americans of Armenian descent, is dedicated to the 1,500,000 victims of the genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government and to men of all nations who have fallen victim to crimes against humanity."

Assemblyman Charles Calderon had the clout to get the bill in front of the legislature and have it pass. He was the first person in the state of California to serve as the majority leader of each branch of the California state legislature and is the first Hispanic man to serve as the California Senate Majority Leader. He represents what is the 58th District which encompasses 11 cities or parts of those cities in the eastern portion of Los Angeles County.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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