Police are investigating the appearance of Turkish flags at two Armenian private schools in the San Fernando Valley as a possible hate crime, officials said. The flags were hanging at the Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School on 5300 White Oak Avenue in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles and the AGBU Manoogian-Dermirdjian School on 6844 Oakdale Avenue in Canoga Park. Photos showed three flags hanging on Ferrahian High School’s gates and a stairwell early Tuesday January 29, 2019.
Ferrahian School administrators said there was no threat to students, and classes continued as usual. Because the suspect trespassed on school property, the incident is being investigated as a hate crime at Ferrahian High School, officials said.
School administration said they alerted the Los Angeles Police Department and officers were investigating at both campuses. Some parents took their children out of school early after receiving an email from the school. “It is scary. Our kids go to private school to be safe, but look what’s going on,” one Ferrahian School parent saod. “It’s ridiculous. What do kids have to do with this?”
At the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, where 13 flags lined hte school’s perimeter, the incident was being characterized as a “hate incident”, since the suspect did not trespass, the school said in a Facebook post. As a precautionary measure, the AGBU school campus “will remain a closed campus until further notice,” officials said.
Surveillance footage showed a man in dark clothing approaching the Ferrahian campus at around 4 am and hanging the flags, the Armenian Genocide Committee said in a news release. The committee called the act a “hate crime.”
The years-long Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire, starting in 1915, killed around 1.5 million Armenians. Relations between Armenia and Turkey remain tense as the Turkish government continues to deny the genocide.
Community members told KTLA television that Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School and neighboring church were built by genocide survivors decades ago. In response to the incident, students at Ferrahian High School waved Armenian flags and hung them on the school railings.
At an afternoon news conference, law enforcement officials, clergy members and city officials denounced the act. “It is the equivalent of putting a Nazi Swastika on the side of a Jewish school,” L.A City Councilman Paul Koretz said at a news conference. “It is outrageous and we are not going to stand for it as a city.” L.A City Councilman Paul Krekorian said the schools are a vital part of Southern California’s Armenian-American community and called the act a “grotesque orchestrated attack.” “The city of Los Angeles will treat these cowardly and hateful acts extremely seriously,” Krekorian said in a written statement.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also commented on the incident. “Every child has a right to attend school without fear,” he said in a tweet. “The Armenian-American community deserves to know who is behind any act of intimidation, and I know that (LAPD) will not stop working until we discover who did this.”
The LAPD said extra police patrols have been assigned around the schools as the investigation continues.