Members of the Armenian Student Association (ASA) silently occupied Quarry Plaza as the bustle of students around them continued on. About 10 students sat and laid with signs on Feb. 4 outside the bookstore, surrounded by sorority booths. Every few minutes a passerby would pause to read, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”
The Armenian Genocide is an event too often forgotten, said Lisa Tatoian, president of the ASA at UC Santa Cruz. The genocide is denied by the Turkish government, where it occurred in the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915, and over 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered because of their race within the year. Still, the U.S. has been nonconfrontational on the issue, and though condemnations of Turkey’s denial has been presented to Congress, one has yet to pass.
UCSC’s ASA took part in a nation-wide protest to address issues concerning the Armenian Genocide and its effects on Armenians today. Members participated in a silent sit-in called “Stain of Denial” that stretched across over 20 college campuses throughout the nation. They held signs and wore duct tape over their mouths, with “DENIAL” printed over the tape. Tatoian knows the protest is important to bring awareness to the genocide.
“It should be recognised, and if I don’t fight for the recognition […] then I wouldn’t be here if my ancestors didn’t survive,” Tatoian said. “It’s my obligation to fight for the recognition.”
She continued her fight surrounded by the rest of the protesters, while onlookers supported the group.
“I respect it, but it’s hard to know what the protest is about because it happened so long ago,” said Alyssa Billys, a student who was working at the Farm Produce Pop-up at the time of the protest. “People don’t know.”
Billys said a silent protest was beneficial. By giving people the option to approach without becoming defensive, it allows for more education and awareness.
“That makes a point, being silent,” Billys said, “because people [in Turkey] have to be silent too.”
Haik Adamian, an ASA member who participated in the protest, made a point to acknowledge that “’Stain of Denial’ was about more than just injustices against the Armenian people.”
“We’re also organizing against genocide and state violence in all forms,” Adamian said, referencing injustices against indigenous Americans, Black Americans, and Latin@ Americans. “It’s really important to address all these issues, especially from where we come from.”
He reiterated that the only way for people to change is if they see that individual issues and struggles are not so individual.
“The liberation of my people means the liberation of someone else’s,” Adamian said. “It’s all interconnected, oppression is all connected.”