Hundreds of pro-Armenia protestors, accompanied by several pickup trucks and big rigs, blocked all the eastbound lanes on the Ventura (134) Freeway at the Golden State (5) interchange near Burbank Wednesday night.
In the demonstration, protesters claimed that Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents Burbank and is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues — has not done enough to stop the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the mountain road that links Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The California Highway Patrol issued a SigAlert at 9 p.m. for the eastbound Ventura Freeway at Central Avenue after numerous big rigs and people were witnessed blocking all eastbound lanes on the freeway.
Shortly after 11 p.m., the big rig that was used to block the junction drove away, opening the backed-up interchange after several hours. The protest also prompted the CHP to close the transition road from the eastbound Ventura Freeway to the northbound Golden State Freeway.
The protests began at Burbank City Hall then continued to the interchange of the two highways.
Pro-Armenia demonstrators have been active in front of Burbank City Hall since last Sunday, when police closed off sections of Olive Avenue for a protest about the Armenia-Azerbajian border conflict. That event was organized by the Burbank branch of the Armenian National Committee of America.
Present Sunday was Donald Wilson Bush, CEO of the Armenian National Association, who lead a chant saying “we’re not going anywhere.”
Wednesday night saw a significant increase in the number of protesters. As hundreds gathered along the strip of highway, facing miles of traffic, signs were laid out which read “Adam Schiff Don’t Ignore Us” and “Open the Road to Life.”
The protest was conducted by a group holding an event called “Rally for Life” to express their distress with Schiff, who represents Burbank, KCAL reported, citing information from the Burbank Police Department. The group claims Schiff has not done enough to stop the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the mountain road that links Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, according to KCAL.
Azerbaijan began a blockade of the Lachin Corridor Dec. 12 following a series of clashes that erupted along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border in September, resulting in at least 200 deaths. The blockade prevented humanitarian aid, basic supplies and outside support from reaching approximately 120,000 civilians there.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been actively engaged in a dispute over the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has been governed by Armenians since ethnic conflict led to the 1991-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War.
Schiff was among the authors of a congressional resolution condemning the blockade and encouraging the United States and the international community to petition the U.N. Security Council and other appropriate international bodies to investigate any possible war crimes committed by Azerbaijani forces.
In a statement issued Monday, Schiff said, “From the day the blockade of the Lachin Corridor began, I, alongside my colleagues in Congress and Armenians around the country, have urged the White House, the State Department, and USAID, to take action to protect the people of Artsakh and their right to self-determination.
“With Azerbaijan’s refusal to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver lifesaving humanitarian aid in, and transport patients requiring urgent medical attention out of Artsakh, the need for the international community to take action and find a lasting solution to the conflict grows with each passing day. I’ve persistently called for Azerbaijan to lift the blockade and allow humanitarian aid to move freely via the Lachin Corridor, and I have urged President Biden to take immediate action to address the dire situation in Artsakh.
“From condemning ceasefire violations, advocating for the release of Armenian prisoners of war, to calling for sanctions and accountability for Azerbaijan, I’ve always been steadfast in my commitment to ensuring the protection of fundamental rights for the people of Artsakh.
“As a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, I’ve also advocated for international action to end this crisis peacefully.
“By using all tools at our disposal, including pushing for U.S. humanitarian aid to Artsakh, cutting off military and other assistance to Azerbaijan, and imposing sanctions on those responsible for this crisis, we can ensure Artsakh’s safety now and in the future.
“I will be with you every step of the way and will always stand with the people of Armenia and Artsakh.”
USAID is the abbreviation for the United States Agency for International Development, the federal agency that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
First published in the August 12 print issue of the Burbank Leader.