As It Happens

Turkish president's bodyguards blamed after protesters beaten bloody in Washington

Eleven people, including a police officer, were injured on Tuesday in clashes between ant-Erdogan protesters in Washington and a group of men in dark suits.
A group of pro-Erdogan demonstrators shout slogans at a group of anti-Erdogan Kurds in Lafayette Park on Wednesday. The day before, clashes between Erdogan supporters and anti-Erdogan protesters turned violent. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

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Lucy Osoyan says she and her friends were peacefully protesting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Washington on Tuesday when a group of muscled men stormed toward them and beat them bloody.

"They ran towards us and they began to beat everyone," the Kurdish protester old As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "I don't know how I ended up being on the ground, and then they begin to beat me in the head."

Police said the fighting that flared outside the Turkish ambassador's residence injured 11 people, including a Washington police officer, and led to two arrests. Osoyan was hospitalized for her injuries.

She believes the men, who hurled insults at her and the other protesters before attacking, were members of Erdogan's security detail. 

"Those people were professionals," she said. "They were not regular people."

We were just expressing our feelings about what  Erdogan  is doing in Turkey. We never were expecting that something like this would happen.- Lucy  Osoyan

A video posted online by Voice For America shows men in dark suits chasing protesters and punching and kicking them as baton-wielding police tried to intervene.

Two men were bloodied from head wounds as bystanders tried to assist dazed protesters.

Neither police nor the White House have confirmed whether any of the men involved in the altercation work for Erdogan, but Turkish state television news reports appear to back up the claim.

Turkey's official Anadolu news agency reported that protesters were chanting anti-Erdogan slogans as he entered the embassy on Tuesday after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Because "police did not heed Turkish demands to intervene," Erdogan's security team and Turkish citizens moved in and "dispersed them," the news agency said.

NBC News is also reporting that the Turkish president's bodyguards were involved in the brawl.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with U.S President Donald Trump as they make statements to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Wednesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Ergodan has a history of coming down hard on critics of his government. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested or fired from their jobs after a failed coup in Turkey last year, including journalists.

A number of U.S. government officials have spoken out against Tuesday's violence.

"We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called it a "violent attack on a peaceful demonstration" and "an affront to DC values and our rights as Americans." 

Two men were arrested at the scene, and police intend to pursue charges against others involved as well, the Metropolitan Police Department said Wednesday.

Ayten Necmi, 49, of Woodside, N.Y. was charged with aggravated assault, police said. Jalal Kheirabadi, 42, of Fairfax, Va., is charged with assaulting a police officer. 

Protest organizers told the New York Times those arrested were part of the group demonstrating against Erdogan. 

Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a news conference Wednesday that officers are examining video to identify those responsible, but added that there may be issues with diplomatic immunity.

"The actions seen outside the Turkish Embassy yesterday in Washington, D.C. stand in contrast to the First Amendment rights and principles we work tirelessly to protect each and every day," a police statement read.

Osoyan hopes officials will back up their words with actions.

"We had two little children with us. We were just expressing our feelings about what Erdogan is doing in Turkey. We never were expecting that something like this would happen," she said. "I would really ask for justice and I would really ask the U.S. government take this action seriously."

With files from Reuters and Associated Press


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