Thursday, May 18, 2017
US decries Washington brawl during Turkish president's visit
WASHINGTON - The United States on Wednesday said it was voicing its "strongest possible" concern to Turkey over a street brawl that erupted between protesters and Turkish security personnel during President Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Washington.
Police said the fighting outside the Turkish ambassador's residence on Tuesday injured 11 people, including a Washington police officer, and led to two arrests for assault. At least one of those arrested was a protester.
"We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
A video posted online showed men in dark suits chasing anti-government protesters and punching and kicking them as police intervened. Two men were bloodied from head wounds as bystanders assisted dazed protesters.
Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a news conference on Wednesday that police had a good idea of most of the assailants' identities and were investigating with the Secret Service and State Department.
Turkey's official Anadolu state news agency reported that protesters were chanting anti-Erdogan slogans as the president entered the residence after meeting US President Donald Trump to discuss the fight against Islamic State militants.
"Police did not heed Turkish demands to intervene," the news agency said, and Erdogan's security team and Turkish citizens moved in and "dispersed them."
The Turkish Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
Tens of thousands of Turks have been detained as Erdogan cracked down on the press and academia following an attempted coup in 2016. Trump made no mention on Tuesday of Erdogan's record on dissent and free speech.
House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "to hold individuals accountable" for the attack.
In a statement, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called the violence "an affront to D.C. (District of Columbia) values and our rights as Americans."
Mehmet Tankan, 31, said he was one of a dozen protesters outside the ambassador’s residence chanting slogans condemning Erdogan for supporting Islamic extremists and opposing political rights for Turkey’s Kurds when the brawl broke out.
Seven security personnel, some of them carrying firearms, rushed up and began punching him, bruising him all over his body, Tankan said by phone.
Tankan said the violence was worse than when Erdogan visited Washington in 2016 and scuffles erupted between his security detail and demonstrators.
“The next time they could kill us easily. I’m scared now too, because I don’t know how it will affect my life here in the United States,” said Tankan, who lives in Arlington, Virginia.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati, Julia Harte and Ian Simpson; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Richard Chang and Tom Brown)