Mt. Davidson Cross

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Plaque Stolen

Visit: http://www.mtdavidsonmemorial.org/ (a site dedicated to the stolen plaque)

PRESS RELEASE
Armenian National Committee ~ San Francisco Bay Area
Web: http://www.ancsf.org/

Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California
Vice Chair, Anto Cingoz
Tel: 510-843-8454

Memorial Plaque Stolen from San Francisco's Mt. Davidson

  • Note: Photos available

September 26, 2007

San Francisco - It was discovered on Sunday, September 23rd, that the memorial plaque at the foot of San Francisco's 103-ft. Mt. Davidson Cross has been stolen. The bronze plaque, which is 3-ft by 4-ft and weighs 160 pounds, was bolted into a concrete base.

The San Francisco Police Department is investigating. Captain Denis O'Leary of the Ingleside station said, "This is a very serious matter. We are considering all possibilities." Noting that the discovery was made on the day when Armenian-Americans were celebrating Armenian Independence Day, O'Leary said they haven't ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. O'Leary said that considering the recycling value of the plaque, the department has also sent out a message and photos to all the metal recycling plants in the Bay Area, and an additional flyer to police departments throughout California.

The plaque reads:

The Mt. Davidson Cross was designed and built by George Kelham and inaugurated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934. In 1997, the citizens of San Francisco voted to approve the sale of the monument to the Council of Armenian-American Organizations of Northern California, to preserve it as an historic landmark.

This revered site is cared for in memory of the 1,500,000 victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government from 1915 to 1918. Over half of the Armenian population on its ancient homeland was killed, and no Armenian community remained in historical western Armenia.

By honoring those lost, we honor all victims of injustice and cruelty. In their name we dedicate ourselves to the protection of human rights and the dignity of all peoples.

If evil of this magnitude can be ignored,
if our own children forget
then we deserve oblivion
and earn the world's scorn.
Avedis Aharonian
(writer and educator, 1866-1948)

Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day April 24, 1998

The plaque was installed after a decade-long legal and political battle over the constitutionality of the presence of a cross in a public park.

 The case was resolved when the city of San Francisco auctioned the

property to private ownership. The Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California (CAAONC) won the auction and voters approved the sale of the property in 1997, despite opposition from atheists who opposed the presence of the cross and Turkish groups who opposed the sale to Armenian-Americans who planned to use the site for annual Armenian Genocide commemorations. Mt. Davidson park and the cross have remained open to the public.

After a memorial plaque was installed, Turkish-American groups sued CAAONC, claiming the plaque violated the terms of the property deed. The court case against the placement of the plaque was dismissed in 2004.

Turkish government representatives are currently waging a similar effort to block a pending congressional resolution, House Resolution 106, which re-affirms the U.S. historical record on the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government has also actively opposed U.S. state laws mandating public education about the Armenian Genocide. In Turkey, discussion of the Armenian Genocide is a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The overwhelming majority of Armenian-Americans living in San Francisco are descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors. Several of the survivors were present at the unveiling of the plaque at the foot of Mt. Davidson Cross, in 1998.

For more information, please call: Bay Area Armenian National Committee at (415) 387-3433 or The Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California Vice Chair, Anto Cingoz, office: 510-843-8454: home: 510-524-6967

Turkish Groups Agree Not to Appeal Armenian Genocide Plaque Decision

Article from California Courier:

SAN FRANCISCO - Two Turkish-American organizations, and the Turkish Consul General, have withdrawn their lawsuit against the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California rather than face the claim of the Council's attorneys for fees.

The lawsuit attacked the plaque commemorating the Armenian Genocide which the Council had placed near the 103-foot cross on San Francisco's Mt. Davidson. The Council purchased the Cross and adjacent land in 1997 from the City of San Francisco, which sold it to settle a challenge to its ownership on church-state grounds.

In their lawsuit, the Turks claimed that the plaque violates the terms of the deed under which the Council acquired the Cross and land from the City. The Council's attorneys denied any violation and also urged that the Turks lacked legal standing to challenge the plaque. The lawsuit, they said, was an impermissible attempt to suppress the Council's free speech rights. The court agreed and dismissed the case. This entitled the lawyers, who were representing the Council without charge, to recover their attorneys' fees from the Turks. Faced with a claim for $100,000 in fees, the Turks agreed to abandon their appeal of the court's ruling, and submitted to an injunction against any repetition of it. They also agreed to indemnify the Council if any such lawsuit is brought by any of their members. In return, the Council's lawyers, at its request, dropped their claim for fees.

Speaking for the Council, a coalition of 35 Armenian American organizations in Northern California, its Chairman, Dr. Krikor Soghikian, stated that the Turkish challenge to the memorial plaque is part of a broad campaign to oppose any public acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, which is officially denied by the Turkish government. The 1915 event is considered by historians as the first genocide of the 20th century, and the most significant human rights crisis of World War I. The leaders of the Ottoman empire systematically carried out the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, more than half of the Armenian population living in its historic homeland. The overwhelming majority of Armenians living in San Francisco and the United States are descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors. Armenian Americans wished to purchase the Mt. Davidson Cross to avoid the destruction of a San Francisco landmark. As the first nation to have accepted Christianity in 301 AD, they believed that the Cross site would be an ideal gathering place to remember their forefathers. Turkish groups actively opposed the purchase, conducting a protest campaign urging city officials, neighborhood and political groups, to vote against the enabling proposition, but 68% of San Francisco voters cast their ballots in favor of the proposition.

The plaque was unveiled in 1988 by Mayor Willie Brown, in the presence of several Genocide survivors.

The Council was represented in the lawsuit by David Balabanian, Geoffrey Holtz, and Matthew Gray of Bingham McCutchen, an 850-lawyer firm with offices in 12 cities.




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