Members of the D.C. area's Armenian community gathered in D.C.'s Sheridan Circle on Saturday to mark Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day with a protest that took on a new tone after President Joe Biden’s comments earlier in the day acknowledging early 20th century atrocities against Armenians as genocide.
The systematic killing and deportation of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 20th century was “genocide,” the United States formally declared, as Biden used that precise word after the White House had avoided it for decades for fear of alienating ally Turkey.
Demonstrators gather every year. This time, they made their way to the Turkish embassy after Biden's major declaration.
“This is a monumental moment for the Armenian community — decades and decades of grassroots advocacy led by the Armenian National Committee of America,” said Tereza Yerimyan, director of government affairs for the group.
Still, the mood was not celebratory. While Armenian Americans in D.C. support Biden’s statement, they are still angry at Turkey.
Turkey denounced and rejected the president’s comments. For the Armenian community, that means there’s still a lot of work to be done.
When asked what the next stage of the fight will be, demonstrators said they are looking for reparations from Turkey.
“[American recognition of the genocide is] proof that perseverance and dedication and good old-fashioned phone calls and emails to your legislators work, and that we have a fight to continue," Yerimyan said. "And we will proudly stand by the Armenian American community leading that fight.”