Police are investigating three alleged hate crime and battery incidents following a skirmish between Armenian and Azerbaijani protesters in West L.A. earlier this week.
Recent border clashes between the two former Soviet nations have resulted in the deaths of at least 16 people. Armenia’s foreign ministry accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling a village in Tavush, a province in northeast Armenia bordered by Georgia and Azerbaijan, “deliberately targeting the civilian infrastructures and the population.” Azerbaijan denied this claim and accused Armenia of shelling its villages.
Locally, Armenian protesters assembled outside of the Azerbaijani Consulate General in West Los Angeles on Tuesday at about 2 p.m. ABC 7 called the protest “large and lively” as the station showed aerial footage of the gathering, but violence later broke out between Armenian protesters and a smaller group of Azerbaijani counterprotesters.
Currently, police are investigating three hate crime and battery incidents after three people sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
LAPD Capt. Randy Goddard told the L.A. Times that “the crowd wasn’t listening to their facilitators and came across the street to try to instigate with counterprotesters.” As police attempted to quell the fighting, one detective was punched in the eye.
Alex Galitsky of the Armenian National Committee of America told KTLA that the counterprotesters instigated the fight by throwing stones and water bottles at Armenian protesters and using racist language and symbolism.
On Twitter, L.A. Consul General of Azerbaijan Nasimi Aghayev accused the Armenian National Committee of America of sponsoring an “Armenian mob” that “assaulted peaceful Azerbaijanis in Los Angeles, injuring many of them.”
“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.”