Updated: Mar 23
A three hour rally in support of Ukraine took place on the steps of City Hall on Saturday in Los Angeles.
By Isaac Dektor, Managing Editor
Wind-whipped Ukrainian flags outnumbered Los Angeles City Hall’s star-spangled banners 10 to one on Saturday as over 200 people occupied the steps and sidewalk across from Grand Park to raise awareness for the ongoing war in Eastern Europe.
As the event began at 2 p.m., attendees filtered in, took their places and raised their signs while music by Ukrainian artists such as Boombox blared from loudspeakers over sporadic honks of support. The intensity was palpable as Ukrainians spoke of their families and friends trapped in the country’s besieged urban centers. A Ukrainian olympic boxer spoke passionately in his native tongue as recreational drones flew just a few feet overhead. An opportunistic merchandise booth unaffiliated with the event set out a table with trinkets such as toilet paper emblazoned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face.
Alex Denysov, one of the event’s organizers, kicked off the day with a powerful speech followed by a series of call-and-response chants such as “Russia go home” and “Glory to Ukraine.”
“The war is not over, lots of innocent people are still dying,” said Denysov. “We need to donate and march until this ends. It shouldn’t be happening in 2022, it shouldn’t be happening at all.”
Attendees were asked to sign petitions demanding a no-fly zone, lethal and humanitarian aid and an embargo on Russian trade. President Joe Biden approved $800 million in additional aid to Ukraine last week, which included air-defense systems, anti-tank weapons and small arms. While the organizers of Stand With Ukraine believe the most recent aid package will assist in the defense of their country, they would like more to be done.
“It’s absolutely the right kind of aid,” said Denysov. “We’re still hoping for full closure of the sky, or at least enough weaponry — air-defense weaponry — so that Ukrainians can protect themselves. This is a step in the right direction. We’ve been demanding and asking this for a while now and luckily it started finally happening.”
Taras Shelestyuk, a boxer and olympic bronze medalist, spoke in Ukrainian about his friends back home fighting the Russians, his parents and younger sister living in Ukraine and the pressure of training for a fight in Montreal amid the ongoing war. Iryna Vasylkova, one of the event’s organizers, translated for him.
“I had a fight that I was preparing for, but on the eve of my fight, Russia invaded my country,” said Khyzhniak. “I decided to fight not for myself but for my country in Montreal. Don’t be discouraged, raise your spirits!”
Mykhailo Lavrys, one of the organizers for Stand With Ukraine, spoke about the Kremlin’s propaganda, urging Russians to stand against Putin.
“I know there are good Russians - there are Russians who support us here,” said Lavrys. “We do acknowledge the brainwashing, but nobody can be apolitical. You’re either against the war or your silence supports the war.”
Stand with Ukraine has been holding rallies throughout Los Angeles since the war began in late February. Denysov, Vasylkova, Lavrys and other organizers plan weekly events and notify the community through the Facebook group Stand With Ukraine LA.
Efforts to raise awareness and funds for Ukrainian defenses are ongoing throughout the city, with a fundraiser scheduled for March 24 at The Abbey in West Hollywood. The Action For Ukraine fundraiser will donate all proceeds to organizations that provide humanitarian aid.