Fresno, CA – On Friday, May 28, 2004, the Armenian National Committee Central California – Fresno organized a grass roots demonstration in support of a coordinated national effort to urge Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring House Resolution 193 (H.Res.193) and Senate Resolution 164 (S.Res. 164) to a floor vote. Members of the Armenian Youth Federation, Fresno Chapter of the Homenetmen, and community members all participated in the demonstration. Speaker Hastert was in Fresno to attend a political fundraiser for California State Senator Ray Ashburn at Pardini’s Restaurant. Senator Ashburn is running for an open Congressional seat in the Fresno area.
The demonstration received extensive coverage by local media outlets, including coverage from news crews from the local ABC and CBS affiliates, KMJ Radio, and a feature article in the local newspaper, The Fresno Bee.
Hundreds of flyers were handed out, and enlarged poster size replicas representing the 100,000 postcards of the ANCA postcard campaign were used as protest signs along with slogans stating, “Hastert Hear the Cry From History” and “Hastert Holds the Genocide Vote Hostage.”
Speaker Hastert commented on the legislation on a local radio program with reporter Ron Statler. The House Speaker stated that, “It [House Resolution 193] has international consequences to it, and it’s something that we have to work with the State Department on and the White House.” Statler stated that, “[The Speaker] declined to say what changes are needed or what the international implications are.”
ANC spokesman Richard Sanikian informed listeners about the nationwide phone, WebFax, and 100,000-postcard campaign calling on Speaker Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Frist to take action on the measure. “After a year, he has not gotten back to us,” noted Sanikian.
H.Res.193 marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
If Speaker Hastert does not bring the resolution to a floor vote by the end of the year, the measure will die.
For more information log on to www.ancfresno.org
The feature article from the May 29, 2004 Fresno Bee is attached below.
The Armenian National Committee (ANC) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization in Central California and Fresno as well as nationwide. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANC actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
From the Fresno Bee – May 29, 2004
FRESNO PROTEST BACKS ARMENIAN RESOLUTION
By Pablo Lopez The Fresno Bee
A group of protesters picketed outside a northwest Fresno restaurant Friday, hoping to get U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to commit to a resolution that recognizes the Armenian genocide.
Hastert, in town to support Republican state Sen. Roy Ashburn’s bid for Congress, never got a chance to address the issue. Once the $250-a-plate luncheon at Pardini’s was over, Hastert was rushed to the airport so he could head to his next engagement.
The protesters, however, didn’t leave empty-handed.
Afterward, Ashburn said he told Hastert that he supports the resolution that recognizes the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. If elected to Congress, Ashburn said, “I would ask Hastert to bring it to a vote.”
At issue is House Resolution 193, marking the 15th anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
This landmark convention, adopted by the U.N. in 1948, specifically identifies genocide as a crime under international law. The resolution cites the Armenian genocide as an example of past genocides, along with the Holocaust and the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides.
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the resolution more than a year ago, but Hastert has not brought it to the House floor for a vote, said Rich Sanikian, a member of the Armenian National Committee, Central California, which organized the protest at Pardini’s.
“If Hastert doesn’t bring this human-rights legislation to a vote in the next six months, it will die at the end of this congressional session,” Sanikian said. Hastert is an Illinois Republican. About 30 people protested outside the restaurant, carrying signs that read: “Hastert hear the cry from history” and “Hastert holds the genocide vote hostage.”
Sanikian said local leaders who support the resolution include Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa; Fresno Mayor Alan Autry; and Ashburn’s political rival, former state Sen. Jim Costa.
Costa, a Fresno Democrat, and Ashburn are battling for the open 20th Congressional District seat. Incumbent Cal Dooley, D-Fresno, is not running for reelection.
The Central Valley is home to more than 60,000 Armenians, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the area. Armenians want Turkey to recognize the genocide and pay restitution.
The modern Turkish republic, which evolved from the Ottoman Empire, disputes that a genocide occurred. The U.S. government has repeatedly balked at passing a resolution because Turkey is an ally and its location is of strategic importance to American interests abroad.
Ashburn’s luncheon drew a who’s-who list of civic leaders, including state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, a Fresno Republican; Madera County Supervisor Frank Bigelow; and Mike Reynolds, founder of the Three Strikes repeat offender law. News crews were not allowed inside the private party. Guests could get photographs with Hastert for a $2,000 donation.
Afterward, Ashburn said if he is elected to Congress he could help the Armenian cause and protect Valley interests because he will be part of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. “I will have committee assignments and seek a leadership role,” he said. If Costa is elected, Ashburn said, “he would be in the minority, a back bench newcomer.”
Costa said he has been an effective legislator because he has bi-partisan support. He said he has been a longtime supporter of the genocide resolution.
The reporter can be reached at email@example.com or (559) 441-6434.