WASHINGTON — Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”
Eleven people were injured, including a police officer, and nine were taken to a hospital, the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Two Secret Service agents were also assaulted in the melee, according to a federal law enforcement official.
The State Department condemned the attack as an assault on free speech and warned Turkey that the action would not be tolerated. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman.
A group of Republican lawmakers went a step further, calling the episode an “affront to the United States” and calling for Turkey to apologize.
Photos and videos posted on social media by witnesses showed a chaotic scene of flying fists, feet and police batons — all in the middle of rush hour traffic along stately Embassy Row. The video showed two men bleeding from the head and men in dark suits punching and kicking protesters, some lying on the ground.
The initial rush devolved into several smaller skirmishes as uniformed police officers, some in helmets and swinging collapsible batons, struggled to restore order. The Anadolu Agency, a state-owned Turkish news service, reported that members of the president’s security team were involved in the attack.
The confrontation came after President Trump welcomed Mr. Erdogan to the White House on Tuesday and praised him as a stalwart ally in the battle against Islamic extremism. Mr. Trump did not speak of Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown on his own people.
The White House has thus far been silent on the episode. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, referred reporters to the State Department and declined to comment further.
This incident should be denounced from the White House. The Turkish ambassador was called to the State Department over the incident. Even though 2 of the Turkish security guards were taken into custody, they were released. All have returned home to Turkey now.
The fact that Turkish President Erdogan can be seen in video watch the incident signals that this government runs rough-shod over those with whom it disagrees.
The NYTimes further reported:
The Turkish embassy released a statement late Wednesday that contradicted United States officials and video evidence and blamed the demonstrators, who, it said, had been “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the president.” The president’s supporters and security forces were reacting in self-defense, the statement said.
The altercation, which played out in broad daylight and ricocheted across social media on Tuesday, puts the United States in an uncomfortable position as it must navigate investigating and potentially charging the security personnel and other Erdogan supporters involved in the attack, who could potentially claim diplomatic immunity.
How should the United States handle an incident like the one shown in the video? Clearly the Turkish security team reacted as thugs behave, kicking and brutalizing innocent civilians who were protesting. In this country, the right to protest is guaranteed to all, regardless of nationality or citizenship.
D. C. Police seem to be the heroes of the day, doing their best to protect the protesters and to quell the dangerous situation. At least one officer was hurt. 10 protestors were injured and taken to the hospital. Incidents like these do not belong in the United States of America. Hopefully a strong message will be sent to President Erdogan renouncing this type of behavior and repudiating all thuggery.