American activists want to know if Turkey’s President Erdogan personally ordered his security to attack protestors in Washington DC, and say President Donald Trump needs to stand up for them.
New VOA video released on Thursday shows that the Turkish President watched his supporters, including members of his security detail, charge toward protesters in the grassy Sheridan Circle.
The protest was taking place across the street from the embassy, and led to 11 people being injured and two arrested. U.S. Senators McCain and Feinstein wrote a letter of complaint to Erdogan about his guards’ actions.
Erdogan’s security can be seen punching and kicking protestors before police restored order.
Just before the attack, an aide to the Turkish president communicates with Erdogan, who was seated in the back seat of a car in the driveway of the Turkish ambassador’s home.
The aide then communicated with another man who ran toward protesters. Seconds later, Erdogan supporters were breaking through the police line.
The city’s chief of police called it “a brutal attack on peaceful protesters” and prosecutors are weighing possible charges. American politicians and the State Department condemned the attack, calling it an unacceptable suppression of free speech rights.
“If you can show President Erdogan ordered the attacks, some countries would consider that an act of war,” says Lacy MacAuley, an anti-Erdogan activist who led a small Friday protest at the scene of the clash.
MacAuley, who says she was assaulted by Turkish security in a separate incident blocks away Tuesday, pointed a megaphone at the Turkish ambassador’s residence Friday and shouted “Erdogan is a fascist!”
Ruken Isik, a Kurdish-American U.S. citizen who was in Sheridan Circle Tuesday with her 4-year-old son, also wants to know if Erdogan ordered the attack.
“We never expected something like this to happen in the U.S. Our president should say something,” Isik says. “Can you imagine Trump going to Turkey and giving an order to his bodyguards to attack people? People who are not even violent?”
After welcoming Erdogan to the White House on Tuesday, Trump departed for his first foreign trip as president. He has not publicly commented on the incident, though the State Department says it summoned Turkey’s ambassador.
Isik says she and other protesters chanted “baby killer Erdogan!” and “terrorist Erdogan!” before Erdogan’s men charged. She fled with her son after a friend was grabbed by the neck, as depicted in a widely circulated photo.
“We were women, elderly men and had two kids. This was our group. We weren’t violent at all,” she says.
A police officer and 11 other people were injured during the confrontation, authorities say.
Flint Arthur, another Erdogan opponent who was in Sheridan Circle on Tuesday, says he watched the video of Erdogan’s interaction with staff before the assault and says “circumstantially it points that he in fact ordered the attack on my friends and I.”
“He’s responsible for it no matter what,” adds Arthur, an American who says he was hit in the head and kicked in the leg during the fracas. “Many of them are hand-picked by him… he’s an authoritarian tyrant.”
Arthur and many other participants support the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia, which is fighting the Islamic State group alongside the U.S. military. The YPG is regarded as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, which occasionally bombs the group, because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
An employee of the Turkish embassy in Washington tells U.S. News that “of course it’s not accurate” to claim that Erodgan ordered the attack. He said the embassy’s press team would need to provide an official statement.
The embassy’s press team, which on Thursday claimed anti-Erdogan protesters “aggressively provok[ed] Turkish-American citizens” who “responded in self-defense,” did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry also did not respond to a request for comment. Friday is a holiday in Turkey and a foreign ministry employee said over the phone that only emergencies were being addressed.
A U.S. State Department official confirmed on background to reporters Thursday that “two members of the Turkish security detail were briefly detained during the altercations and subsequently released.”. CNN reports the men returned to Turkey.
It’s unclear why the Turkish security officers were allowed to leave the country. Legal experts tell U.S. News it’s unlikely traveling security guards enjoy diplomatic immunity.
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