WASHINGTON (A.W.)—On May 16, a group of peaceful demonstrators protesting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to the United States, were attacked by pro-Erdogan groups—including members of Erdogan’s security team—at the Sheridan Circle near the residence of the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.
According to several sources, nine people were taken to the hospital and two others were arrested after the violent confrontation.
“[This was] the type of violence you would never expect to see in America’s capital. It was the type of violence you’d expect to see in Erdogan’s Turkey and in other dictatorships,” said Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who captured parts of the attack and streamed the aftermath live on the ANCA’s Facebook page. “This is the very type of intolerance that has come to predominate in Turkey and it has now been exported here,” he added.
The demonstration, which began at Lafayette Square at noon, was organized by a coalition of organizations, including the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the American Hellenic Council. Several different groups, which included representatives from the Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Yezidi, and Assyrian communities, participated in the protest, while President Erdogan met with U.S. President Donald Trump a the White House.
The U.S. State Department is working with D.C. police and the U.S. Secret Service to identify Erdogan’s security personnel who were involved in the incident. “We will continue to work with our partners at the United States State Department and United States Secret Service to identify and hold all subjects accountable for their involvement in the altercation,” read a statement from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
“I saw a group of peaceful protesters in Sheridan Circle—a grassy area across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence—who were protesting and exercising their constitutional right to speak their minds, to hold signs, to share their opinions, and express their views get rushed from across the street by a group of a pro-Erdogan [demonstrators], who broke through the police lines and attacked literally anybody within their reach with their fists and anything else they could get a hold of,” Hamparian said in the live video moments after the attack. Hamparian went on to explain that the crowd of Erdogan supporters beat as many people as they could and that many were bloodied and had to be taken to the hospital.
Below is video footage of the incident, provided by the Baltimore Bloc.
“This is exactly the type of violence you see in Ankara and they are exporting it here. It’s one thing for the Turkish government to do that to its own citizens—[which is] a terrible thing. It is another thing for us, as Americans, to see that exported to the United States,” Hamparian said.
On May 17, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued the following statement regarding the violent confrontation:
“What we saw yesterday—a violent attack on a peaceful demonstration—is an affront to D.C. values and our rights as Americans. I strongly condemn these actions and have been briefed by Chief Newsham on our response. The Metropolitan Police Department will continue investigating the incident and will work with federal partners to ensure justice is served.”
Below is close-up video footage of the attack provided by Voice of America.
The Armenian Weekly will be following this story and provide updates as they become available.