Protesters blocked a California freeway to bring attention to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to reports.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Los Angeles on Saturday, waving Armenian flags and holding up signs that demanded media pay attention to the conflict between the neighboring nations, the LA Times reported.
Freeway traffic slowed in both directions around 9:30 p.m., Officer Don Conley of the California Highway Patrol said. By 10:15 p.m., demonstrators had forced the highway to close.
Traffic began to move again after 11 p.m.
The Armenian Youth Federation had organized an earlier protest that day, having already organized one outside the Azerbaijan consulate that drew over 1,000 people, CBS Los Angeles reported.
A clash on Sept. 27 resulted in Armenia instituting martial law and Azerbaijan declaring a state of war. Each nation deployed troops to the heavily contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, with intense fighting “along the entire front line,” according to Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanian.
Protesters take part in a demonstration in support of Armenia, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Heavy fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued Saturday in their conflict over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, while Azerbaijan’s president criticized the international mediators who have tried for decades to resolve the dispute. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Each side accused the other of attacking civilians in a clash that is possibly the most violent since a 1994 ceasefire between the nations. Protests in several nations have broken out, demanding attention to the conflict before it grows more severe.
Some observers worry that the regional clash could escalate into a proxy war between Russia and Turkey – and even Iran – if other nations do not act.
“They’re attacking innocent civilian villages. They’re attacking innocent people’s homes,” Eva Arakelyan, a protester, told NBC Los Angeles.
A view of a residential area and cars that were allegedly damaged by shelling during a military conflict in self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, Azerbaijan, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. The fighting is the biggest escalation in years in the decades-long dispute over the region, which lies within Azerbaijan but is controlled by local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia. (David Ghahramanyan/NKR InfoCenter PAN Photo via AP)
“They are trying to erase a whole race and the world is watching, how can we not be emotional about that?” Mariam Khachatryan, another protester, asked.
Armenia has repeatedly claimed over the past week that Turkey sent Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan and that the Turkish military is aiding Azerbaijan in the conflict.
In this grab taken from video released by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, Azerbaijan’s solders applaud at a meeting with officers during fighting with forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan on Saturday said heavy fighting is continuing in their conflict over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s president criticized the international mediators who have tried for decades to resolve the dispute. (Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry via AP)
“Turkey and Azerbaijan are pursuing not only military-political goals,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said Saturday in an address to his nation. “Their goal is Armenia, their goal is continuation of the genocide of Armenians.”
Azerbaijan countered with accusations that thousands of ethnic Armenians from abroad were being deployed or recruited to fight for Armenia.
“Armenia and Armenian disapora organizations bear international legal liability for organizing these terrorist activities,” an Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry statement said.
The Los Angeles metropolitan area has the largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia itself.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.