Armenian demonstration at Turkish consulate, Chicago, October 17 (photo Lisa Panoyan's Facebook)

CHICAGO – Due to its status as America’s third largest city, the presence of both Armenian and Turkish consulates, a thriving Armenian community, as well as a substantial Turkish community, Chicago is becoming a hotspot for protests revolving around the war in Artsakh. We spoke with Irina Petrosyan, personal assistant to the honorary consul of the Republic of Armenia in Chicago, Oscar Tatosian, to inform us about recent events in the city.

Protest at ABC Studios

On Thursday, October 15, from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m., a protest was organized by Chicago’s Armenian community “in coordination with the ARF [Armenian Revolutionary Federation],” in front of the downtown studios of Chicago’s ABC affiliate TV station (ABC-7/WLS-TV). The protest was “for coverage about the war” said Petrosyan, and was organized to “demand coverage of our calls to justice” according to organizer Anoush Bargamian. We are informed that there were only about 20 people present at this protest. A representative of ABC-7 News emerged from the building saying that the news was being filmed on the second floor and nobody could hear the protestors outside, but that they would accept a statement from the Armenian group. A press release was handed to the ABC representative. Later, it was learned that ABC-7 had been filming the Armenian protestors from a first-floor window.

Protest at ABC Studios (Anoush Bargamian Facebook)

According to Petrosyan, the Armenian community believes that due to this small protest, ABC-7 Chicago was convinced to send a news team to the protest that was to take place at the Turkish Consulate on Saturday, October 17.

Azerbaijanis protesting facing the Armenian consulate in Chicago (photo Irina Petrosyan)

Before that could happen, however, a group of about 50 Azerbaijani protestors came to the Armenian Consulate in Chicago the following day, Friday, October 16. Petrosyan was an eyewitness to these events. The Armenian Consulate is run out of the same premises as Tatosian’s business, Oscar Isberian Rugs in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago.

Azerbaijanis protesting (photo Irina Petrosyan)

Standing across the narrow street from the consulate, and holding a large sign that read “Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” the protestors were waving Azerbaijani, Turkish, and even Israeli, Ukrainian, and Pakistani flags. Some also had American flags and Chicago’s official city flag.

Azerbaijanis protesting (photo Irina Petrosyan)

Petrosyan remarked that a personal contact of hers in the Ukrainian community had informed her that the individuals holding Ukrainian flags were not Ukrainian, and that furthermore, the Azerbaijanis allegedly had contacted members of the Ukrainian community offering them sums of $200 to come and join the protest.

Azerbaijanis protesting (photo Irina Petrosyan)

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The protestors stayed about one hour or less, but managed to disrupt Tatosian’s business, which was open for customers at the time. Tatosian in turn did not respond to protestors but went about the daily conduct of his rug business, helping customers. Petrosyan observed that there were many police officers present on the street. Since he knew there was going to be a protest, Tatosian had contacted the city regarding security and Petrosyan believes that for that reason there was a heavy police presence.

Tatosian’s customers and even delivery trucks were directed to park further away from the entrance rather than in the normal parking spots for the rug store. Petrosyan is not sure whether it was the police or members of the Azerbaijani protest that directed these customers to park elsewhere. At any rate, leaving the rug store’s parking spaces open allowed the “Armenian Consulate” sign to be visible from the street. Petrosyan stated that Azerbaijanis were coming to take pictures with the consulate sign, and seemed to want the entrance of the building and the sign to be visible from their side. They were also taking videos.

Protest at the Turkish Consulate (photo Vinnie Cartabiano)

On Saturday, October 17, a protest at the Turkish Consulate, in its prime location in the NBC building in downtown Chicago, was organized by the local ARF. With participation from the Armenian Youth Federation (the youth arm of the ARF) and the general Armenian community, about 400 people attended this massive protest which in addition to protesting in front of the Turkish Consulate, also marched through the streets of downtown Chicago.

Protesters at the Turkish Consulate (photo Vinnie Cartabiano)

The ABC-7 TV station came and filmed the protest. As stated, Petrosyan believes that the reason they came was because of the small protest at ABC’s studios two days earlier. However, the segment that eventually aired on TV was “30 seconds or less” according to Petrosyan.

At the Turkish Consulate (photo Vinnie Cartabiano)
At the protest at the Turkish Consulate (photo Vinnie Cartabiano)

On Thursday, October 22, a small demonstration took place on the bridge on Harlem Avenue which passes over the Kennedy Expressway. Armenian community members, including the young Fr. Andreas Garabedian of the nearby St. Gregory Armenian Church of Chicago, stood on the overpass with signs visible to drivers on both streets. The Kennedy Expressway is a major commuter and transportation throughfare because it connects downtown Chicago with O’Hare Airport, one of the busiest in the world. There is also a major “L” Train station (Chicago’s public transit) at this intersection.

Demonstration at Harlem Avenue-Kennedy Expressway overpass (photo Fr Andreas Garabedian [pictured, selfie])
According to Petrosyan, whether they have been large or small, local Armenians have been organizing protests and demonstrations in Chicago practically every week since the war began. For example, the AYF organized an earlier protest at the Turkish consulate on October 3. Last Friday’s pro-Azerbaijani demonstration was the first of its kind to have taken place in Chicago, Petrosyan said.
Kennedy Expressway overpass (photo Fr Andreas Garabedian)


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