LOS ANGELES – Police are investigating the appearance of Turkish flags at two Armenian private schools in the San Fernando Valley as a possible hate crime, officials said Tuesday.
The flags were hanging at the Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles and the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in the Canoga Park neighborhood of the city.
Photos showed three flags hanging on Ferrahian High School’s gates and a stairwell early Tuesday morning.
Ferrahian school administrators said there was no threat to students, and classes continued as usual.
Because the suspect trespassed on school property, the incident is being investigated as a hate crime at Ferrahian High School school, officials said.
School administrators said they alerted the Los Angeles Police Department and officers were investigating at both campuses.
Some parents took their children out of school early after receiving an email from the school.
“It is scary. Our kids go to private school to be safe, but look what’s going on,” one Ferrahian High School parent told KTLA. “It’s ridiculous. What do kids have to do with this?”
At the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, where 13 flags lined the school’s perimeter, the incident was being characterized as a “hate incident,” since the suspect did not trespass, the school said in a Facebook post.
As a precautionary measure, the AGBU school campus “will remain a closed campus until further notice,” officials said.
Surveillance footage showed a man in dark clothing approaching the Ferrahian campus at around 4 a.m. and hanging the flags, the Armenian Genocide Committee said in a news release.
The committee called the act a “hate crime.”
The years-long Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire, starting in 1915, killed around 1.5 million Armenians. Relations between Armenia and Turkey remain tense as the Turkish government continues to deny the genocide.
Community members told KTLA that the Holy Martyrs Ferrahian high school and neighboring church were built by genocide survivors decades ago.
In response to the incident, students at the Ferrahian high school waved Armenian flags and hung them on the school’s railings.
At an afternoon news conference, law enforcement officials, clergy members and city officials denounced the act.
“It is the equivalent of putting a Nazi swastika on the side of a Jewish school,” L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz said at the news conference. “It is outrageous, and we are not going to stand for it as a city.”
L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian said the schools are a vital part of Southern California’s Armenian-American community and called the act a “grotesque orchestrated attack.”
“The city of Los Angeles will treat these cowardly and hateful acts extremely seriously,” Krekorian said in a written statement.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also commented on the incident. “Every child has a right to attend school without fear,” he said in a tweet. “The Armenian-American community deserves to know who is behind any act of intimidation, and I know that (LAPD) will not stop working until we discover who did this.”
The LAPD said extra police patrols have been assigned around the schools as the investigation continues.
BREAKING: Early this morning, Turkish flags were hung in different Armenian schools in the LA area. These type of acts are absolutely intolerable and unacceptable.
Here are the proud students of Ferrahian Armenian school responding to this hate incident. pic.twitter.com/XVKkOUTg1i
— Armenian Youth Federation-WUS (@ayfwest) January 29, 2019
Every child has a right to attend school without fear. The Armenian-American community deserves to know who is behind any act of intimidation, and I know that @LAPDHQ will not stop working until we discover who did this. https://t.co/7r5BKnOCgz
— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) January 30, 2019