From Glendale News Press:

Church graffiti deemed hateful

Painting of a star and crescent at Armenian place of worship is being called a hate crime.

By Ryan Vaillancourt

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Police say vandals who spray-painted a crescent and star design on a wall at St. Peter Armenian Church on Sunday committed a hate crime by meaning to intimidate Armenians by invoking the Turkish flag.

Church congregants discovered what they described as a red crescent and star spray-painted on the wall outside the church, along Kenilworth Road. The graffiti has since been painted over.

Many Armenians harbor deep enmity for the modern Republic of Turkey for its refusal to recognize the genocide committed against Armenians between 1915 and 1918 by the former Ottoman Empire.

Depicting a Turkish flag on the side of an Armenian church would be similar to putting a swastika on a synagogue, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

“It’s the same significance,” he said. “This is obviously considered vandalism, but it’s also considered a hate crime if you can prove the perpetrator did it for hatred reasons.”

Police have not identified any suspects and are not pursuing any leads, he said.

“That’s why it’s imperative to get community involvement in identifying the perpetrators,” he said. “Any time you vandalize a church or a synagogue, any type of church, we won’t tolerate it, and we’ll do everything we can to find the people.”

Anoush Dekmejian, a church trustee who believes the vandalism took place during a Sunday morning service, said she immediately recognized the crescent and star shapes as those on the Turkish flag.

“My impression, immediately, was that it was a hate crime,” said Dekmejian, who reported the incident to police at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

But St. Peter’s pastor, Father Vazken Movsesian, who is well-known for his advocacy on behalf of genocide recognition — not only of the Armenian Genocide but the ongoing genocidal conflict in Darfur — downplayed the incident, saying the graffiti was more reminiscent of a child’s depiction of a star and a moon.

He compared the symbols to stationery in his office that shows golden moons and shining stars in the margins.

“You’d be hard-pressed to say it was the Turkish flag,” Movsesian said. “Really, honestly, it seems sensationalized . . . . I really saw a kid’s drawing.”

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he believed the vandalism was tied to racial tensions surrounding a controversial absentee ballot application ordinance.

“I really don’t think that it’s an isolated incident,” Najarian said.

“I think it’s directly related to the attention that the absentee application issue has garnered . . . . Bottom line is, it’s just sad that it has occurred.”

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Crime Stoppers line, which allows anonymous calls, at (818) 507-7867.