Controversial Hollywood Turkish parade canceled

The Ottoman Military Marching band at the 2010 Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival in Orange County.
The Ottoman Military Marching band at the 2010 Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival in Orange County.
Nazim Birkent

A controversial Hollywood parade featuring the Ottoman Military Marching Band was canceled Wednesday after objections from the Armenian community, but event organizers said the cancellation was purely practical.

"We had some logistical issues with the band members trying to make it here on time," said Hafsa Rai, spokeswoman for the Pacifica Institute, which canceled the event.

Rai cites paperwork, plane tickets, insurance and other issues as the real reason the parade was canceled. The entire 35-person marching band had to be flown out together from Turkey to the U.S., and the necessary paperwork would not be completed in time, Rai said. She said that there was a visa issue, as they'd tried to have the visa approved with expedited processing, but the visa office asked for more information.

The Armenian Youth Federation and Armenian National Committee called Monday's planned Hollywood Boulevard parade by an Ottoman military marching bank an affront to victims of Turkey's 1915-1918 genocide of Armenians.

"They're obviously not aware of these sensitivities and facts so we are stuck in this position where we have to voice our opposition," said Serouj Aprahamian, the executive director of the Armenian Youth Federation.

The parade was scheduled to take place at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Rai said organizers chose this location because of the large amount of tourists it attracts, but Aprahamian thinks the location choice was insensitive.

"The Ottoman Military Marching band that was scheduled to march is just a stone's throw away from little Armenia," said Aprahamian.

Organizers said the marching band was meant to draw attention to the upcoming Anatolian Cultures Festival in Costa Mesa that begins Oct. 6. The four-day festival celebrates all cultures that have at one time lived in what is now Turkey, including Armenians.

But Aprahamian said the band is a military organization, not a cultural event, and if the goal was to promote a festival in Orange County it doesn't make sense for the parade to be held in Los Angeles.

The event organizers said no one from the Armenian community had contacted them directly to protest the event, and that Pacifica was unaware of the controversy until there was talk of public protests and Facebook groups forming online.

"We were surprised by the reaction of the Armenian community and we did not intend to offend anyone," Rai said.

Since the parade was canceled, so was the potential protest.

"We'd prefer this issue not to come up at all," said Aprahamian. "To us, it's mindblowing that someone would even organize something like this."

Los Angeles is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia, said Aprahamian, and he said that the community is still dealing with serious issues stemming from the Armenian genocide of almost 100 years ago.

This story has been updated. It also incorporates information from the Associated Press.