Protesters Again March Against Red Army Show : Armenians: This time police are prepared. Repetition of Thursday disruption is avoided.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

For the second night in a row Armenian protesters marched outside the Shrine Auditorium where the Soviet Red Army Chorus and dance ensemble appeared, but on Friday police were prepared and demonstrators were unable to delay the concert as they had on opening night.

Barricades blocked streets leading to the auditorium and officers would only permit ticket holders or those intending to buy tickets to pass. Demonstrators were limited to marching and chanting on Jefferson Boulevard, near the USC campus.

About 4,000 people attended the chorus' second performance, which started on time, according to Shrine officials. On Thursday evening, a group of about 1,000 demonstrators blocked the Shrine's entrances, some of them chaining themselves to the front doors and delaying the performance for more than two hours.

Paruyr Hayrikyan, who identified himself as chairman of the Alliance for Self Determination of Armenia, challenged police Friday night, noting that demonstrators had been permitted access to the front of the Shrine at the initial performance of the 175-member chorus.

"That was last night," an officer replied. "This is tonight. You are going to stay out here."

After being kept away from the entrance, the number of demonstrators, estimated at about 250, quickly dropped to about 100, who marched and chanted "Red Army go home" and "Red Army butchers."

Police ignored a statement by some Armenian activists on Thursday night that they had no intention of returning to demonstrate at the three remaining performances of the Soviet group, and they showed up with a plan.

An LAPD official admitted Friday that police were unprepared for the massive opening-night protest, even though preliminary intelligence reports had accurately predicted a turnout of about 1,000 demonstrators.

"You can't just move (the protesters) when you don't have a plan," said Cmdr. Ernest Curtsinger of the LAPD's South Bureau.

The commander said he believed that there would be no more than 200 protesters at the event, if a demonstration took place at all.

"We had a plan to deal with a much smaller demonstration," he said.

News reports in at least two local Armenian newspapers had also predicted a large demonstration, which was organized by the Armenian National Committee, but Curtsinger said he was unaware of the articles.

Arriving in 10 rented school buses, the raucous throng of demonstrators converged on the building about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, blocking auditorium entrances to protest slayings of Armenians by the Red Army.

"The box office was bottle-necked," auditorium manager Douglas Worthington said. "The Armenians were blocking it. You couldn't walk up to the box office to purchase tickets or pick up will-call. They were eight to 10 deep in front of the door."

Although several officers from various police divisions were patroling the area, Curtsinger said, there was nothing the officers could do to prevent the demonstrators from locking up the building.

"Even if we had arrested them, we had no place to put them," he said. "You can't just move them when you don't have a plan."

Although police said they were at the auditorium before the protest started, some patrons said they did not see many officers when they arrived.

"I kept wondering, 'Where are the police?' " said Harry Hickox of Hollywood, who arrived at the auditorium shortly before the protest began Thursday. "I wasn't angry with how they handled it. I was just puzzled. It took them a long time to respond."

Hickox said the demonstrators tried to force him away from the building.

"I was pushed around when I started to go to the box office," said Hickox, who accompanied a friend to the concert. "I'm not very easily frightened by that type of thing, but I was very apprehensive."

Demonstrators said they too were surprised that the Police Department did not try to remove them--especially after they had chained the doors.

"We were ready to be arrested peacefully," said Apo Boghigian, editor of Asbarez, a local Armenian daily. "We expected that they would try to force their way to the doors. They didn't. The police behaved well."

The demonstrators, who chanted and carried signs decrying the killing of Soviet Armenians, said they were not trying to harm or intimidate the concert-goers.

"We're not targeting the American public," said Harut Sassounian, editor of California Courier, an Armenian weekly newspaper. "We're not even targeting the Red Army performers.

"We're trying to send a message to Moscow. . . . But to be fair, our brothers are being shot in the homeland. We have to have proper perspective of musical inconvenience and the lives of people," he said.

After protesters had packed up and left Thursday night, the Red Army Chorus gave an abbreviated performance for the ticket-holders who remained. The auditorium management agreed to refund money to those ticket-holders who missed the performance because of the protest.

Times staff writers Nieson Himmel, Edward J. Boyer, Hector Tobar and John Kendall also contributed to this story.

RELATED STORY: Calendar, F1.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
64°