Violence breaks out at the Azerbaijan Consulate in Brentwood as protesters clash
One person was arrested and several people, including an officer, were injured after a peaceful protest turned violent at the Azerbaijan Consulate in Brentwood earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
The protest, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, started about 2 p.m. Tuesday with hundreds marching to the Azerbaijan Consulate near the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard. A smaller group of Azerbaijani counterprotesters also was present.
After the larger group clashed with the counterprotesters, small pockets of violence erupted, and at least four people were injured, including an LAPD officer, authorities said.
Erik Hakobyan, an 18-year-old protester, was arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer after authorities said he punched an LAPD detective in the face.
The local protest came after violence that began July 12 in Tavush, a northern province of Armenia near the border of Azerbaijan. Both sides have accused each other of violence and encroachment on their territory. Four Azerbaijani soldiers have been killed and five wounded, while three Armenian soldiers and two police officers were wounded, according to the New York Times.
The Western Region of the Armenian National Committee of America blames Azerbaijan for engaging in the use of “heavy artillery, tanks and combat drones against civilians and civilian infrastructure, striking a kindergarten, a [personal protective equipment] mask factory and homes along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Alex Galitsky, communications director for the group, said the Brentwood protest was part of a larger global movement that aims to condemn the Azerbaijani government’s “incitement of anti-Armenian hatred and racism.”
According to a news release from the LAPD, a much smaller group of Azerbaijani counterprotesters was present at the Consulate when the Armenian group arrived. But after the two groups became increasingly “agitated and verbal toward each other,” more police were called to escort the Azerbaijani protesters out of the area.
“At that time, an altercation occurred between the Azerbaijani protesters and a vehicle carrying Armenian protesters. As a result of the altercation, multiple fights broke out between the two groups,” the LAPD said.
According to the LAPD news release, three people were punched or kicked during the encounters. They were hospitalized with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, authorities said.
When a detective tried to pull away Hakobyan, who police say was joined by others in assaulting a counterprotester who was on the ground, he punched the detective in the face, according to the LAPD news release.
L.A. Consul General of Azerbaijan Nasimi Aghayev said seven people were injured in the attack by the Armenian group and five were hospitalized.
“I think this is something that shouldn’t happen in Los Angeles,” Aghayev told NBC News. “Every side should be able to peacefully express their opinion and offer their side of the story.”
Galitsky said the Azerbaijani group was throwing stones and water bottles at the Armenian protesters, who had already instructed those gathered to disperse in an effort to diffuse potential problems. He said the violence began when “an Azerbaijani protester assaulted a female Armenian protester, knocking her out with a flag pole while she was in her car.”
Galitsky said none of the violence stemmed from his group or the Armenian Youth Federation.
“We strongly condemn any violence that took place,” he said, adding that he does not want the violence in Brentwood’s protest to distract from the violence happening in Armenia as a result of tensions between the Azerbaijani and Armenian governments.