A group of cyclists and runners will embark on a cross country journey from Southern California Friday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
The Armenian cyclists and runners are going from LA to Washington, D.C. -- 3,000 miles across 15 states -- each leg commemorating a genocide.
"We are using the Armenian genocide as a backdrop but every leg matches up with what happened in the Ottoman Empire and contrast it -- with Auschwitz, with Darfur, with Bosnia," said Lois Melkonian, a participant in the event.
Mekikian said that what a lot of people don't know is that during the Armenian genocide, Americans mobilized to raise money for the genocide victims."
"That was the first real international relief effort," he said.
Armenian-owned businesses and schools also will be closed on Friday in Glendale, which has one of the nation's largest Armenian populations. Dozens of rallies have taken place in the past month calling for an end to genocides of all kinds.
More than 15,000 people were expected at "March for Justice" starting at Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue remembering those who were killed and those who survived.
"If you meet an Armenian today, just about anywhere around the world in one way or another they're descendants or survivors of the genocide," said Gary Mekikian.
The annual April 24 commemorations mark the day when some 250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up in what is regarded as the first step of the massacres. An estimated 1.5 million died in the massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 as Ottoman officials worried that the Christian Armenians would side with Russia, its enemy in the World War I.
The event is widely viewed by historians as genocide but modern Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman Empire, vehemently rejects the charge, saying that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest. On the eve of the centennial, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that his nation's ancestors never committed genocide.
The following areas should be avoided when possible to prevent travel delays:
- Hollywood Boulevard between Western Avenue and Serrano Ave (8:45-10:00am)
- Sunset Boulevard from Western Avenue to La Brea Avenue
- La Brea Avenue from Sunset Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard
- Wilshire Boulevard from La Brea Avenue to 6300 Wilshire Boulevard, next to S Crescent Heights Boulevard
All areas will be closed starting at 8:00 AM, with only limited traffic allowed to pass through the following intersections: Wilton Pl/Sunset Blvd, Gower St/Sunset Blvd, Cahuenga Blvd/Sunset Blvd, Highland Ave/Sunset Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd/La Brea Ave, Melrose Ave/La Brea Ave, Beverly Blvd/La Brea Ave, 3rd St/La Brea Ave, 6th St/La Brea Ave, Hauser Blvd/Wilshire Blvd, Fairfax Ave/Wilshire Blvd.
Streets will reopen on a rolling basis as marchers pass through.