YEREVAN—A small group of demonstrators protested in front of the United States Embassy in Armenia on Thursday under the banner “Armenians for Black Lives.” The group consisting of a dozen mostly Armenian American repatriates joined similar actions in cities across the world to demand justice for the murder of an unarmed black man—George Floyd—at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota just over one week ago.
Protesters demanding an audience with US ambassador Lynne Tracy were met by police who asked them to maintain social distancing guidelines and refrain from photographing the embassy grounds.
“Why does this affect me? I’m only an Armenian American because of the injustice perpetrated against the Armenians a century ago during the Genocide which displaced my ancestors to the US,” explained Maggie Ovian, a native of Madison, Connecticut now residing in Yerevan. “My great-grandparents were able to build a new life by benefiting from white privilege which is what allowed me to repatriate to Armenia.” Ovian added that as genocide survivors American Armenians have the opportunity to harness the pain of injustices being perpetrated against black Americans for centuries and fight for those who continue to be persecuted.
As protesters formed a line along the US Embassy lawn holding posters with popular slogans from the movement, a police loudspeaker announced in both Armenian and English that due to the ongoing State of Emergency situation in place, all public demonstrations have been ruled illegal and gave the protesters five minutes to disperse.
Police, however, did agree to allow two of the demonstrators to enter the diplomatic mission in order to deliver a letter on behalf of Armenians condemning not only the murder of Floyd, but institutionalized racism and police brutality in general.
The demonstrators then read out the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other people of color who have died in police-related incidents in recent years. With the demonstration over, they walked back to central Yerevan with police in tow.
Gabriel Alejandro Atjian from Tucson, Arizona, said of the whole experience, “As the son of immigrant Armenian and Mexican parents, I’ve felt the difficulties that minority communities have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Now, it’s time for our different communities to come together and build a better foundation for the future by standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters back home who have been oppressed since the foundation of our nation to show that we won’t allow them to fear for their or their children’s future.”