The Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) released a disappointing statement on Tuesday, February 7 regarding the anti-Armenian flyers that were posted throughout the city on Saturday, January 28th ahead of the Armenian Youth Federation Western United States’ March for Artsakh.
These flyers displayed a variety of messages, calling to “wipe Armenia off the map.” At a time when our homeland is undergoing a humanitarian crisis, this kind of rhetoric — especially at a protest intended to call national attention to the Artsakh blockade — is alarming.
In a short statement, which they have since deleted from their social media platforms, the BHPD called the flyers “offensive” and “insensitive,” but ultimately determined that they “fall within the protection of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.” It’s well-known that the First Amendment is not absolute and has limitations, especially when the speech in question is inciting violence—hate speech targeting a specific person or group. Threatening to wipe an entire race off the planet constitutes a true threat.
Members of the Armenian community and social justice activists alike are outraged and wondering, when did constitutionality become an aspect of police investigation? Moreover, when did it get in the way of said investigation? Are calls to incite violence truly protected under the First Amendment, or is supporting justice for Armenians not a means of strengthening one’s social capital?
Many are wondering if the reason why this is being handled so lightly is because Armenians are the targets, a minority that one gains virtually no brownie points for supporting. If it were any other group, as we have seen before, significant steps would very likely be taken to bring the communities to justice.
Threatening to wipe an entire race off the planet constitutes a true threat.
Back in December, the BHPD arrested someone overnight for “vandalizing and carving a Nazi symbol into the base of a large Menorah,” locating the perpetrator with “the assistance of the police department’s Real Time Watch Center.” The suspect was charged with not only felony vandalism, but a hate crime. BHPD detectives said they would conduct a follow-up investigation with the potential for more charges.
Maybe for a brief moment, one could have understood the freedom of speech angle. That moment was fleeting after reading this. Both situations — the vandalism and the flyer — are hate crimes. There should be no doubt about it. However, according to the BHPD’s statement, those who spread the anti-Armenian flyers get a hall pass because it falls under their First Amendment rights. What is different from carving a Nazi symbol and posting up flyers calling for a genocide? Isn’t the latter the more imminent, direct threat?
Time and time again, we are told by our enemies that our lives do not matter. As the blockade progresses, we see that our lives don’t even matter in our ancestral homeland, as well as in the Diasporan communities we have contributed to for years.
Here is the call to action. This is not the time to complain behind a screen. We must take this opportunity to voice our concerns to the BHPD. We know that this statement is screaming the words “We don’t care.” Put the facts on the table for them to see, everyone. It is not their place to hide behind a thin screen of “constitutionality” when that area of the law does not — and should not — concern them. If a group of people living in the city you took an oath to protect feel unsafe, then it is your job to step up to the plate and do everything you can to make sure that the perpetrators are caught and punished accordingly. That is your role as a police officer. You are not a Supreme Court judge, occupying yourself with the nuanced constitutionality behind hate crimes posted in your city. That is not your concern. Your job is to protect and to serve.
Armenian-Americans in Southern California are known to protest peacefully. During protests, we follow any and all city protocols and work closely with local police departments to make sure everything is carried out appropriately. Must we make noise for our rights to be protected? Must we “burn the city to the ground” to protest speech calling for a genocide pasted up on public property in broad daylight to be penalized properly? Does a legitimate, in-person attack have to happen for these glaring warning signs to be taken seriously? As an Armenian, I pray this initial hate crime is not the precursor for something more severe brewing in the shadows.
Freedom of speech is not freedom of consequence. Take this idea and run.
Author’s Note: The Beverly Hills Police Department took down their statement from all social media platforms on the evening of February 7, 2023. The Armenian community is awaiting their next move. We demand an explanation and a complete investigation for what has occurred in our city.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Agree wholeheartedly with you have said!
What an important article for the times we find ourselves in. This is great journalism with a true purpose. It seems like the time to hold our elected officials and law enforcement accountable.
The termination of the investigation, and the notion that these threats and racist statements about Armenia are protected by the 1st Amendment, is outrageous. Armenians in the LA area need to mobilize immediately to protest at the Beverly Hills PD.
Very well written, Melody!
This is hate speech without a doubt and until those who are responsible for such acts are not caught and brought to justice these things will continue to occur. An example should be made of such criminals publically and with severe consequences. I agree fully that authorities should only concern themselves with keeping communities safe and secure instead of philosophizing nonsense to absolve themselves of their duties. Looking at the unusual size of the paper and the ink used to print the hate speech I am guessing this was not the work of an individual because it looks like it would have required special printing device to create this piece of racist filth. I believe this was the work of organized criminals. Most likely, by doing some forensic analysis of the material used they could probably identify the paper manufacturer which would then lead to the stores carrying these types of paper. They could then check the store records for purchases made which would potentially lead to the perpetrators of this hate crime. Given the size of the Armenian communities in Southern California, and the resources they have, I think they should get much more organized and even conduct some detective work of their own to get to the bottom of this. I have NO doubt Azerbaijani criminals are behind this and I would not even put past their officials extending a helping hand in this. If their leaders at the top would allow themselves to make racist anti-Armenian speeches and openly then anything is possible and expected of these criminals. The reason why this happened is because the perpetrators of their past crimes, such as graffiti left and shot fired at an Armenian school as well as a Church fire in Northern California, have gone unpunished. I think if we find one perpetrator we will be able to expose the entire ring behind all these unresolved and unpunished crimes.
These signs are a distraction and a diversion of our attention and efforts to address *actual* threats and dangers. The people who posted these signs wanted Armenians to react out of fear rather than reason.
The signs are a psychological prank. Based on this article and the comments it’s received so far, the people who made those posters have succeeded in spreading fear and provoking irrational thought.
The BHPD is correct. While offensive, the signs do not warrant police action or investigation. They do not vandalize. They do not fall under the “hate crime” category for a number of reasons, not least of which being that BHPD has no jurisdiction in the Southern Caucuses where the “crime” would presumably take place.
“Feeling unsafe” does not require police intervention – it’s not the job of the police or the state to make citizens “feel” safe. It’s absurd to ask law enforcement to mobilize on this basis.
If this were a credible threat against Armenians in the region, and the BHPD did not respond, then this would indeed be a scandal worthy of mobilization.
As it is, there is no “call to action” here. This is, however, a reminder that all Armenians everywhere are explicitly and implicitly responsible to aid in our collective security against *actual* threats faced by Armenians in Armenia, Artsakh, Jerusalem, and Turkey.
The issue is that BHPD has taken action when it has been other cases, like that have been mentioned the Jewish community in the article. That is an undeniable problem for sure. It’s an embarrassing thing for the police department to think that they can get away with things like this when it comes to us. They even deleted the post!! They know they are wrong.
I can’t speak for others but in no way did they spread any fear or provoke any irrational thought in me since I know them quite well and up close. I know how they think and how they act. We made them suffer psychologically for thirty years. Losing to Armenians for them is worse than taking poison pills and with such irrational acts they are trying to convince themselves that they have overcome their fears when in fact they are displaying their fears of us with such acts. I look at the sign and see the names of the countries that aided terrorist Azerbaijan in the 2020 war and for self-interests primarily. To call these four as ‘brothers’ is preposterous. They can only be called as brothers-in-crime. A Sunni Turk can’t be a brother to a Shia Azerbaijani since one considers the other an apostate. These two criminals have found in each other a common Armenian enemy and are exploiting one another. Turks consider Israelis as oppressors of their fellow Muslim Palestinians and their president Erdogan called Israeli leaders terrorists and worse than WWII German henchmen not so long ago. Terrorist Pakistan with no diplomatic relations with Armenia has joined these criminals mainly to send a message to India over Kashmir. Israel sells state-of-the-art weapons to Azerbaijan, in fact has lately replaced Russia as the main weapons supplier to Azerbaijan, in return for cheap Caspian oil & gas and for establishing military bases on Azerbaijani-occupied Armenian territories right next door to Iran to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. AND Azerbaijan is using them all against Armenia and Iran.
I don’t see any true brotherhood among these countries at all but only a self-serving alliance based on fallacy. I do agree that this was a psychological game or even a prank they played on some of us but that does not mean we should ignore it. People can’t go around putting up such racist sings and get away with it. There have to be consequences. We must react to it with sober minds and demand that something be done about it because the more we ignore them, by considering them as pranks and psychological fear-mongering methods, the bolder they will become in their criminal activities. They must fear us so much that they would resort to such juvenile acts and want to do what that racist sign suggests. Not even in their wildest dreams of course. They are venting out of fear. They have already felt our crushing power on their skins and have neither forgotten nor have they been able to digest their losses to this day!
The Beverly Hills PD definitely has jurisdiction, and a responsibility. This is definitely a hate crime. They must make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators and punish them for defacing public property and spewing racist rhetoric.