As our recent slideshows capture all too well, there's been a great deal of damage done over the past several nights in the wake of peaceful protests over the police-custody death of Minneapolis's George Floyd on May 25.
But arguably the most egregious example of the way vandalism has distracted from the absolutely legitimate messages about unequal justice for African-Americans in Colorado and beyond is the one above: the desecration of a monument to victims of the Armenian genocide and other victims of crimes against humanity located on the Colorado State Capitol grounds.
Far too many Americans are unfamiliar with the horrific loss of life associated with events that are also known as the Armenian holocaust, in part because of political pressures that linger to this day. But here's how then-Senator Mark Udall described it in 2010: "In just eight years, beginning in 1915, more than half of the Armenian population was murdered — one and a half million men, women, and children — and a half million more were forced into exile."
The size and scope of the tragedy makes the attack on the monument, which was dedicated in 2015 on the east lawn of the Capitol on the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, even more egregious.
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The ignorance of the vandals is symbolized by the vapidity of the words visible on the left side of the photo above: "Sample text." But stupidity is certainly no excuse for besmirching the memory of more than a million people who died because of prejudice — just as those protesting George Floyd's death in a thoughtful and non-violent manner argue that he did.
Below is a statement from Armenians for Colorado about this act. Its eloquence contrasts sharply with the images seen here.
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We are heartbroken to inform you that the Colorado State Capitol Khachkar memorial to the Armenian Genocide and to the victims of all crimes against humanity has been vandalized with spray paint graffiti during the ongoing protests in downtown Denver.
Since the Khachkar commemorates the victims of all crimes against humanity, including slavery and state-sponsored racism, it is ironic that individuals who claim to seek justice have vandalized the very monument that honors the victims of injustice.
Protest leaders have repeatedly denounced violence and vandalism. We do not hold the peaceful protesters responsible for the behavior of violent individuals. As Armenian Americans, a community that has survived genocide and centuries of oppression, we recognize and condemn the ongoing injustices against our African American community and we join them in calling for justice for George Floyd.
[On May 30], our community leadership discussed scenarios for protecting the Khachkar monument before we found out that it had been vandalized. One idea to protect the monument was boarding it up, which could have made the khachkar more vulnerable by making it flammable. Any vandalism against the Capitol khachkar is particularly painful, given that it is a replica of one of the 3,000 medieval cross-stones of the legendary Djulfa cemetery destroyed by Azerbaijan’s government in 2005 as part of their plan of erasing the Armenian history in Nakhichevan.
We will continue to monitor the ongoing protests and consider short-term and long-term solutions for the protection of the Colorado State Capitol memorial to the victims of all crimes against humanity. If necessary, we will rebuild our sacred monument again and again, while defending human rights and equality for all.
Board of Directors, Armenians of Colorado
Update: This afternoon, the board of directors for the Armenians of Colorado sent a release warning that good Samaritans who attempted to clean graffiti off the Armenian genocide memorial have unintentionally "damaged the monument even further." Because of that, the organization has posted a message near the display that reads: "Please do not attempt cleaning this monument. The monument is made of volcanic ash and requires professional restoration by highly-skilled craftsmen. While we appreciate your good will, cleaning this monument will cause more damage. Thank you for your concern and please do not remove this sign. You are welcome to lay flowers in front of the monument (not on it) in solidarity."