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Council Approves Armenian Genocide Memorial at Memorial Park

Much of the Council's debate focused on the Memorial's location; the vote came about 11 p.m. and was met by a standing ovation.

Black news from Pasadena - Community News - Armenian Genocide Memorial In a packed chamber that spilled over into the hallway and a viewing room downstairs, the Pasadena City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to install an Armenian Genocide Memorial at Memorial Park.

The majority of the 36 people who submitted comment cards to present before the council spoke favorably about the project as it was proposed. 93 others in attendance who chose not to speak signed a petition of support, joining the 1,010 other community members who had signed an earlier petition in support of the project.

The project's expected completion date is April 24, 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the genocide, in which more than 1.5 million Armenians are said to have died under the Ottoman Turks.

Many people have no idea of the significance of April 24 because the Turkish and U.S. governments deny that a genocide occurred. However, Former Pasadena police chief Barney Melekian, who is also on the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee, said that the Armenian genocide was the first act of extermination in the 21st century with significant evidence that it was the training ground for the Holocaust that followed less than 25 years later.

"Thousands of Armenians came to Pasadena to rebuild their shattered lives. They grew and prospered and raised their families to help make this city what it is today. It seems imperative that all of Pasadena learn about this event and remember that the unthinkable can happen," Melekian said.

Pasadena has a unique relationship with the Armenian American community, having issued an annual proclamation commemorating the genocide for more than 30 years as well as amending affirmative action codes to make Armenians a protected class. Pasadena also has a sister city in Armenia. Armenian Americans have lived in the city since its inception, today totaling more than 20,000 according to church polls.

"I think an Armenian Genocide Memorial is vital to this community. I think it will provide a tremendous education value on something that is inextricably tied up in Pasadena as well as the world," Councilmember Terry Tornek said.

Black news from Pasadena - Community News - Armenian Genocide Memorial

Seeing the mock up set up in the spot in Memorial Park last Wednesday sealed the decision for many of the council members who had previously been worried about its obtrusiveness relative to other memorials in the park.

Councilmembers Terry Tournek, Jacque Robinson and Margaret McAustin had several questions including whether Memorial Park would have enough room for the thousands who could come for the remembrance of the genocide that is observed every year in Pasadena. They also expressed concern about needing to revise the policy detailing the approval process for future memorials.

"The greater good prevailed and nothing's ever perfect but I think it's appropriate in the Memorial park," Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson said, who had the strongest reservations about the location.

Several military veterans expressed their concern that the Armenian Genocide Memorial may overshadow the park that in their opinion should be reserved for American casualties.

"If this memorial is as successful as I think we hope it is I fear it will come at the cost of changing the meaning of Memorial Park. The memorial is fantastic, I think it merits its own park," veteran David Alexander said.

Of the 36 speakers, no one spoke negatively of the elegant and beautiful design by Art Center College of Design student Catherine Menard whose design was chosen in a contest with 17 submissions.

The memorial will feature a carved-stone basin of water straddled by a tripod arrangement of three columns leaning into one another, where a single drop of water will fall from highest point every three seconds. Each "teardrop" will represent one life lost during the Armenian Genocide, falling from the structure that was the instrument of death.

"It's not just a tripod, the scaffold represents where the leaders of our nation were hung by the Ottoman Turkish government at the outset of the genocide," PASAGMC board member and former Pasadena Mayor Bill Paparian.

Paparian along with Melekian and former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino were part of the Armenian group of leaders who came forward to submit an application for the memorial in May of 2012. The PASAGMC has already raised $40,000 to build the memorial and will also be the caretakers once the project has been implemented.

"The design is dramatic and poignant so that it brings a tear to your eye and tonight is a celebration that brings a tear to your eye," Portantino said.

Designer Catherine Menard heard about the Armenian genocide for the first time when she began the project and was moved to tears on several occasions while she worked on it.

"I am still in disbelief. I am moved, I'm shocked, I'm elated, I know that the real work starts now. Right now I just want to hug and kiss everybody. I truly feel like I've been welcomed into this family," Menard said.

Several of the community members shared their own stories of how their parents and grandparents were directly affected by this genocide, barely escaping to come to Pasadena. While a large portion of the world denies the occurrence, Pasadena will help future generations remember the Armenians who lost their lives in an atrocious act.

"This is our chance to bring awareness and tell them how 1.5 million Armenians were hung, poisoned, drowned, murdered, and marched into the desert to die," A representative from the youth group of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena said.

Several of the Armenians who spoke were war veterans themselves, including Bernard Melekian who believes this memorial will not diminish the other tributes to the fallen, but rather the beautiful piece of art will enhance the other memorials in the park.

Although previously a controversy had risen in the Armenian community between the PASAGMC and a group called the Armenian Community Coalition who wanted to submit their own design, the ACC did not attend the council meeting to express opposition.

"This has also become a Pasadena story because so many Pasadenans have been affected by this," Councilmember Victor Gordo said "This does represent a milestone if you will at memorial park and for our city. I think having this memorial at Memorial Park will create an educational opportunity. These atrocities aren't vague they're real."

The Armenian Genocide Memorial will educate all citizens and be a beloved memorial for not only the Armenians in Pasadena, but also the large community in nearby Glendale.

"This memorial should not only be a memorial to the past but it should serve as a beacon for future generations to ensure they do not forget not just the Armenians but all victims of injustice," Melekian said.



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