1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US condemns Erdogan guards' attack on protesters

Alistair Walsh AFP, AP, Reuters
May 17, 2017

The Turkish President's bodyguards violently attacked a group of pro-Kurdish demonstrators after a meeting with Donald Trump. The city of Washington, the US State Department and police all condemned the attack.

Washington Pro-Erdogan Demonstranten im  Lafayette Park
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Douliery

The city of Washington on Wednesday condemned a "brutal attack on peaceful protesters" by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bodyguards.

The bodyguards allegedly pushed past Washington police to attack supporters of a Kurdish group as Erdogan returned to the Turkish embassy following a meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington.

Videos posted to social media showed a group of men in suits punching and kicking protesters, including a woman lying down, while police struggled to stop the violence.

"Yesterday afternoon we witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence," a police spokesman said.

"The actions seen outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC stand in contrast to the First Amendment rights and principles we work tirelessly to protect every single day," a police statement said.

Free expression

The US State Department expressed concern to Turkey in the "strongest possible terms" on Wednesday.

"Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

"This is the United States of America. We do not do this here," Senator John McCain said on Twitter. "There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior."

Police said 11 people were injured in the clashes.

Issues with diplomatic immunity

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) shakes hands with U.S President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
The meeting came after the US announced plans to arm a Kurdish militia to help fight the so-called "Islamic State"Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

Turkey's official Anadolu news agency labeled the protesters Kurdish "supporters of terror," saying they chanted anti-Erdogan slogans as Erdogan entered the embassy.It said his security team acted to disperse the protesters because "police did not pay heed to Turkish demands to intervene."

Police said two men had been arrested and they were pursuing charges against others involved. But diplomatic immunity could hinder those efforts, Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a news conference Wednesday. He said police were examining video to identify those responsible.

Erdogan used his White House meeting to tell Trump his country would not accept Syrian Kurdish fighters in the region, but did not directly criticize a US decision to arm them.

Trump said Erdogan was an important ally in the "fight against terrorism" and did not mention Erdogan's domestic crackdown after last year's failed coup attempt.

"We've had a great relationship and we will make it even better," Trump said in their joint appearance.

US arms Kurdish militia

Tensions had arisen between the two countries over Washington's decision to arm the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia that Ankara regards as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Last year Erdogan's bodyguards attacked a group outside the Brookings Institution, ejecting a Turkish reporter from the speech venue, kicking another and throwing a third to the ground outside the prominent think tank.

Amberin Zaman, the Economist's former Turkey correspondent and scholar at the Wilson Center, a DC think tank, reported at the time that the bodyguards called her a "PKK whore," a reference to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party.