Hundreds rally on Brand

DOWNTOWN — Shortly after 7 p.m. on Friday, hundreds of people gathered along a nine-block stretch of Brand Boulevard, holding candles and enlarged photographs of smiling faces.

The candles served to commemorate eight people who were killed on March 1 in the Republic of Armenia, when a clash between police and protesters turned violent. The people in the photographs were among the more than 800 political prisoners held by the country’s government.

“Any one who stands up for their rights, they are arrested as a political prisoner,” said Arsen, a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Armenia, who asked that his last name be withheld for safety reasons.

The unrest in Armenia was sparked by allegations that a Feb. 19 election was rigged in favor of Prime Minister Serge Sarkissian.

Protesters had camped out in an area known as Freedom Square for more than a week before tension boiled over.

Officials declared a state of emergency that was lifted on Friday and Armenians took to the streets in a “Silent March” in remembrance of the victims. Assembling on Brand was a way for Armenians in Glendale to show their support as well, Arsen said.

“What happens here is an extension of what happened in Armenia,” he said.

Organizers were expecting a few hundred demonstrators to line the street on Friday. And by 7:30 p.m. it seemed to be at least that, with many more expected.

“This is kind of in solidarity, to commemorate the victims of the March 1 events and also to express support to the political prisoners and also denounce the actions of the government,” said Harry Sarafian, co-chair of the Glendale-based Coalition for a Democratic Armenia.

The state of emergency declared in Armenia kept mourners from holding funerals and memorials because police would disperse any gathering crowds, Sarafian said.

“This is the first day that people can show their support and commemorate the deaths,” he said.

Shortly after the deaths in Armenia, thousands of Armenian immigrants took to the streets of Hollywood on March 2 to show solidarity with those who have denounced the election and continue to demand a reassessment of the voting process.

The coalition submitted a petition to the U.S. State Department calling on United States officials to put pressure on Armenian President Robert Kocharian to end political persecution of demonstrators and annul the election results.

 CHRIS WIEBE covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at chris.wiebe@

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