Tens of thousands of people attended Friday's "March for Justice" through Los Angeles on the anniversary of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.
The six-mile march was set to travel to the Turkish Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard from Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, in Little Armenia. Los Angeles has America's largest Armenian population and the city's march was expected to be the largest in the western U.S.
Marchers hoped to bring awareness of the Armenian genocide, a term that's rejected by the Turkish government despite evidence of mass killings, which began with 300 Armenian leaders who were rounded up and deported or killed on April 24, 1915. About 5,000 poor Armenians were killed in and around Istanbul that day as well.
On the eve of the centennial, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that his nation's ancestors never committed genocide, and the U.S. government has never recognized the massacres as a genocide.
But Los Angeles leaders spoke in support of referring to the massacres as a genocide.
"The mass extermination of Armenians was a genocide. We need to call it what it was," City Attorney Mike Feuer said Friday.
"Turkey is the only country where its own state-sponsored historians try to fight the truth, try to revise history, but there's no revising this dark chapter in the history of the world," U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff said.
Before the march stepped off, LA City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, joined by Feuer and other politicians, unveiled the Armenian Genocide Memorial Square, meant to "show that the city of Los Angeles recognizes the history of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the impact the event had on the Armenian community," O'Farrell said.
The Turkish Consulate in LA said in a statement that it commemorates and grieves the Armenians who died in the massacres but said using the term "genocide" is "historically wrong and politically misused."
Firing back at the call for recognition of a genocide by the Armenians, Dr. Metin Mangir, from the Committee of Turkish Americans, said, "That's a very big tragedy but Armenians also killed half a million non-Armenians prior to 1915, they never mention this.'
City News contributed to this report.