Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addressed some 10,000 people from the steps of City Hall on Sunday, Sept. 22, in a rally marking his first visit to Los Angeles, the largest Armenian population center outside the Republic of Armenia.
Pashinyan was appointed to his post after leading a wave of anti-government protests between March and May of 2018 that led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan — and has been widely hailed as a harbinger of democracy by championing free elections and government transparency.
“We have created a new image for Armenia,” said Pashinyan after lauding the warm California welcome in Armenian, the diaspora crowd chanting his name.
“We have developed a new slogan: It’s cool to be Armenian,” he said. “And together we have to make it even better, because the Armenian people is one of a great history and past. And our country has a bright future.”
North Hollywood councilmember Paul Krekorian, who became the first Armenian elected to city office in 2010, played a leading role in organizing the rally. Burbank Rep. Adam Schiff also addressed the crowd, calling LA the “capitol of the Armenian diaspora.”
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Pashinyan’s leadership, saying “A day of sunshine has come to Armenia, a day of openness, of democracy. The day has come to invest and support and help the new Armenia rise, and rise and rise under this prime minister.”
Thousands are starting to pour into Grand Park from Glendale, Pasadena and the SFV for a visit today by Armenian Prime Minister @NikolPashinyan. It’s his first stop in LA, the largest Armenian population center outside Armenia, since getting elected last year
The bulk of attendees, clapping and dancing along to traditional music and dance performances on the steps of City Hall, came in predominately from such Armenian community population centers as Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley. Buses to downtown LA were made available to the communities.
While estimations of the Armenian population in Greater LA vary, the 2000 census reported over 150,000 Armenians in LA County with some 40,000 living in the San Fernando Valley.
“We’re here to honor and welcome him, for having led the revolution and cleaning up corruption,” said Hrair Koutnouyan of Glendale, who came to see Pashinyan with his wife. “A government that’s without stealing and cheating isn’t something that’s easily accepted, but he’s proving it can be done.”
Some, like 24-year-old Ani Dergrigorian of Glendale, who has lived in Armenia, is “optimistic” about Pashinyan’s leadership but hopes to hold him to account on issues facing every day Armenians. She and her sister, Areni, brought signs that demanded an end to environmentally harmful mining practices in the nation’s Almusar region.
“Maybe we don’t feel the impacts as much here, but it’s more important than ever for us to be engaged in politics in Armenia,” she said. “We’re all facing climate change on the same planet. At the end of the day it impacts us too.”
Monterey Park doctor Jack Der-Sarkissian said he was moved by the “optimism and enthusiasm” in Armenia following the Pashinyan-led protests, what he and his supporters call the “Velvet Revolution.” He’s listening for proof that the leader will be the steward of democracy he said he would.
“A lot of people in Los Angeles will financially invest in their families and Armenia needs it,” he said. “At the end of the day he needs to convince people like myself that it’s the right time to invest in Armenia. He has a lot of work ahead of him.”