By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Three young Armenian entrepreneurs praised last month a location Americana – a large complex shop-restaurant-theater in Glendale – to sell T-shirts, caps and other clothing items which advertising is visible on their website shop1915.com.
The team rentals Americana has approved their goods Chuldzhyan Tina, Alex Kodagolian and Armin Hariri (a rapper known as the ‘R-Mean’) began in the sale.
On February 12, the opening day of their activity, three Armenians were surprised to be told by the management of Americana their location should be held in accordance with good morals and all protest pictures were to be withdrawn . Although no image no protest was on location – only young pictures wearing t-shirts available for sale – Chuldzhyan told the California Courier that she immediately grabbed the posters to avoid conflict with Americana.
On 25 February, Americana was an ultimatum telling Tina and her two partners they had to change within 24 hours the kind of goods they were selling, citing public complaints relating to clothing ‘genocide’. Otherwise, they would have three days to evacuate.
Fearing forced eviction, the three contractors agreed not to show the Armenian t-shirts, and sell them at the request of customers. Later this afternoon, an attendant came Americana confirm that all items on the theme of ‘genocide’ should be removed entirely from the place.
This was clearly an intrusion into the affairs of the three Armenians. Americana had no right to ban the sale of T-shirts ‘genocide’ – a violation of the right of expression of the owner. In addition, on t-shirts that I saw during my visit last week there was not on the word genocide: they just bore the inscription “ARE WE THERE YET – 2015”. There were other T-shirts available for sale only with the letter P for Pentagon Records, the company name of Armenian entrepreneurs.
It is not sure that anyone has complained to management about Americana Armenian T-shirts. No one has ever sent any criticism to the owners of the business. Furthermore, assuming that someone has complained, does that mean that Armenian clothes, with or without the word genocide, should not be sold at Americana? It’s a slippery slope! If someone complained that books on the Holocaust and Genocide are sold in Barnes and Noble bookstores, in Americana, management of the mall she would ban the sale of such works? And what about the American cinemas showing films that may be offensive to some people, while they are shopping?
Having realized qu’Americana violated his civil rights, Tina consulted a lawyer to consider what actions could be taken to protect the interests of his case. She informed her lawyer that his contract with Americana did not prohibit the sale of clothing making mention of the genocide. The contract does not contain any restriction regarding pornography, elixirs and other drugs, and sale of used goods. The lawyer told Tina that even if the behavior of Americana was clearly illegal, she had no choice but to bow, having before it a large corporation provided with a consequent legal team.
Even very disappointed not to be able to assert their rights, Tina decided to follow the advice of his lawyer, and conformed ungraciously illegal and draconian demands of Americana, not to condemn his fledgling business. “I felt a bit like back in the days of Prohibition, selling contraband,” said Tina in California Courier.
Last week, Tina received new warnings of Americana, requiring him to show no clothing referring to genocide and that, even after she removed all other Armenian T-shirts, except the one saying WE ARE STILL THERE – 2015 ‘.
This controversy goes far beyond the sole interests of three young Armenians. Acts of Americana affect the civil rights of all traders and all of the Armenian community, especially on the eve of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Armenians in Glendale and city officials, who granted Americana generous tax exemptions, should immediately react to this situation and defend the rights of these three small business owners.
Americana is the property of Rick Caruso, who took advantage of friendly relations with the large Armenian community in Glendale. Hopefully Mr. Caruso will take the appropriate when it is made aware of the unacceptable and illegal actions of his team.
No one in the office of Americana, has wanted to answer my phone call after sending a message requesting explanations on the prohibition of the sale of Armenian clothing.