Turkish bodyguards assault anti-Erdogan protesters; US lawmakers blast ambassador

UPDATE — 5/22, 5:05 p.m. EDT: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has called on the U.S. ambassador in Ankara to file a formal complaint against President Erdogan’s security personnel who assaulted protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington last week, and issued a statement blaming the U.S. for a lack of security which led to the incident. 

“It has been formally requested that the U.S. authorities conduct a full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation,” the Monday statement read, which also said the intervening D.C. police acted “aggressive and unprofessional”.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, just arrived in Ankara, Turkey, for a diplomatic visit.

 

Mayhem erupted blocks away from the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as President Trump met with Turkish President Recep Erdogan at the White House.

As the two leaders met, approximately two dozen protesters assembled in Sheridan Square demonstrating Erdogan’s visit were met by armed bodyguards assigned to protect the Turkish leader.  Protesters claimed they were assembling to protest Turkey’s policies in Syria.

Sheridan Square is in the heart of northwest Washington, known as “Embassy Row,” the home of numerous foreign diplomatic offices.

A clash ensued with protesters in which video captures Turkish security dressed in suits assaulting protesters, kicking men and women, and, in one disturbing image, a female demonstrator being thrown to the ground by a Turkish guard.

A statement released by the Turkish embassy told of Erdogan’s bodyguards acting in “self-defense” and declaring protesters having ties to terror groups.

The video also contains images of Washington’s Metropolitan Police attempting to separate demonstrators from embassy security, but the Turkish guards persisted and ignored police commands. Nine were injured in the melee and two were arrested; it is not clear if any protester was hospitalized.

Diplomatic immunity prevents foreign dignitaries from arrest; this immunity is similarly extended to security staff.

CNN reported Friday Erdogan witnessed the assault and returned to the embassy without taking action.  Following the clash, American lawmakers blasted Turkey, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who in an interview on MSNBC Thursday said the U.S. should throw Turkey’s ambassador “the hell out” of America.

“We should throw the Turkish ambassador out of the country, we should identify those people that performed these unlawful acts of beating people up and they should be charged,” he later told reporters.

Both Washington law enforcement and the U.S. State Department are currently investigating the incident.

“Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” a statement by the State Department Wednesday read. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.”

 

[AP] [CNN] [Politico] [Boo TV/YouTube] [Photo courtesy VOA via Daily Mail]