Former Mayor Bill Paparian Leads Crusade
In a packed chamber that spilled over into the hallway and a viewing room downstairs, the Pasadena City Council voted unanimously on recently 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. Ninety-three 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 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.
Councilmembers 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.
There were 36 speakers, but 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 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 said.
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.