As a brief refresher, on Tuesday evening (the same day as the Turkish President Erdogan met with Donald Trump) bodyguards of Erdogan attacked a small group of peaceful protesters that had gathered outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in the District of Columbia. And now new video has emerged, provided by Voice of America and edited for clarity by The Reagan Battalion, that clearly shows that President Erdogan was himself not only present for the attack but also witnessed it with his own eyes — with circumstantial evidence even seeming to indicate that the bodyguards who carried out the assault were ordered to do so by Erdogan directly. Even before this new video emerged, some on Capitol Hillhad begun to call for serious consequences for Turkey (including ejected their ambassador from the country) but so far the White House has been pretty quiet about what, if anything, it might do in response to this travesty. If “America First” is to mean anything, it must mean defending Americans from brutal assaults by foreign powers in the streets of our nation’s capital.
UPDATE: The Turkish government responded to the controversy with an official statement that stretched all credulity by actually blaming the peaceful protesters for the violence, linking these protesters to terrorists, and saying that Erdogan’s bodyguards were acting in self-defense as they mobbed the small group, beat them down, and kicked them in their faces. The statement is as follows:
“Groups affiliated with the PKK which the U.S. and Turkey have designated as a terrorist organization, gathered yesterday without permit in Sheridan Circle in the immediate vicinity of the Ambassador’s Residence, while the President of Turkey was visiting the Residence. The demonstrators began aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President. The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured. The violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration. We hope that, in the future, appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that similar provocative actions causing harm and violence do not occur.”
Oh good, the classic Her-Dress-Was-Too-Short-So-She-Had-It-Coming Defense. Because “self defense” means chasing people down and hitting them until they bleed. Because Erdogan’s bodyguards were “provoked” into kicking men and women in the face. Absurd. Patently, ridiculously, utterly absurd.
ORIGINAL: A violent video (see above) generating hundreds of thousands of views was posted by Voice of America Turkish (and then re-posted by Voice of America in English as well) yesterday evening, showing a shocking scene taking place outside an embassy – a large group of Turkish supporters facing off against a much smaller group of pro-Kurdish / pro-Armenian / anti-Erdogan protesters. It really must be seen to believed. In the video, the Erdogan supporters suddenly surged forward and begin attacking the protesters, chasing them, surrounding them, beating them, knocking them down, and continuing to kick them in the face even as they lay motionless on the ground, all while police desperately tried to push the attackers back. Body guards for Turkish President Erdogan himself feature prominently in the fray and, in a very brief moment of terrible funhouse mirror “gender equality”, they don’t limit their attacks just to the male pro-Kurdish protesters — strollers are overturned and women are shamelessly attacked and kicked and bloodied by the pro-Turkish group as well.
This display of iron-fisted thuggery – the government of Turkey brutally suppressing a protest by a group of Kurds and anti-Erdogan protesters – didn’t take place in some far-flung province within the confines of the Republic of Turkey, but instead took place on the streets of our nation’s capital just outside the Turkish Embassy right here in Washington D.C. against American citizens. And the men dishing out the beatdowns weren’t just some random thugs – NBC confirmed that these thugs were the personal security detail for Turkish President Erdogan himself, with Andrea Mitchell tweeting out: “US officials confirm to NBC News men who beat protesters outside Turkish Embassy in DC are Pres. Erdogan’s bodyguards.” And, as Voice of America reports, even the Turkish Ambassador to the United States himself got personally involved too, screaming at one of the police officers attempting to keep the peace. It must be said that Washington D.C.’s police department put forward a valiant effort and should be lauded for their efforts, but the clear Turkish disregard for the authority of our capital’s police as well as our nation’s laws was appalling and galling – despite clear orders from officers to stop, dark-suited Erdogan supporters relentlessly surround protesters and put boots right into their faces. This all took place on the same day that U.S. President Trump met with Turkey’s President Erdogan — a meeting in which Erdogan had the audacity to critique U.S. foreign policy as well as its support for Syria’s Kurds in their battle against ISIS. The chaotic scene outside of the embassy would go little-reported most of yesterday, but, once it started to take off on Twitter, mainstream news outlets began providing coverage.
“A group of demonstrators started to chant anti-Erdogan slogans and held up placards that read “Free Demirtas,” a reference to Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed leader of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P. A separate group waving Turkish flags arrived and started chanting slogans in support of Mr. Erdogan, the VOA reported. The verbal stand off then turned physical … Demonstrators and the police and members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team clashed last year outside the Brookings Institute in Washington where he was giving a speech about the Middle East. The institute wrote on its website then that his bodyguards had “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or Chinese.”
“About two dozen demonstrators showed up outside of the embassy just hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House. ‘We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria and in Iraq,’ said Flint Arthur of Baltimore, Maryland. Arthur accused Erdogan supporters of breaching police lines and attacking protesters on at least three separate occasions. A Facebook video captured at the scene shows several protesters covered in blood. ‘They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey,’ Arthur said. ‘They stopped us for a few minutes … but we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.’”
“‘All of the sudden they just ran towards us,’ Yazidi Kurd demonstrator Lucy Usoyan told ABC, adding that she was attacked by a pro-Erdoğan supporter. ‘Someone was beating me in the head nonstop, and I thought, Okay, I’m on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?’ The altercation came the same day that Erdoğan met Donald Trump at the White House. The State Department declined to comment. Earlier Trump and Erdoğan had stood side by side at the White House and promised to strengthen strained ties despite the Turkish leader’s stern warning about Washington’s arming of a Kurdish militia. Fresh from securing his grip on Turkey with a referendum to enhance his powers, Erdoğan came to the Oval Office with complaints about US support for Kurdish fighters and what Ankara says is Washington’s harbouring of the mastermind of a failed coup.”
A number of U.S. Senators began to weigh in and condemn Erdogan over this as well. Senator John McCain tweeted out that, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior.” And Senator Ben Sasse would issue a very direct messagetoo: “President Erdogan, you would do well to remember that this country is built on free speech, free religion, free press, & freedom to protest.”
The DC Police Department held a press conference earlier today where they made clear statements about their investigation of the violent event (which I transcribed below): “Yesterday afternoon, we witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protesters at the Turkish Ambassador’s residence at the 1600 Block of 23rd Street Northwest. As a result of the incident, eleven people and one police officer were injured. Nine of those who were injured were taken to local hospitals where they were treated and released. This incident required additional police resources and involvement from our partners at DC Fire & EMS and extended road closures … We were able to make two arrests on the scene … We intend to ensure that there is accountability for anyone that was involved in this assault. I’m very encouraged by earlier conversations that I had with my federal partners at the State Department and at the U.S. Secret Service who have pledged to be fully cooperative in assisting and in holding the folks that were responsible accountable … This is not the sort of thing that we tolerate. This is a city where people should be allowed to come and peacefully protest.” Questions about whether the Secret Service had arrested some of Erdogan’s body guards only to release them at the behest of the State Department remained unanswered.
And, per Katie Pavlich of Townhall, instead of strongly condemning the inexcusable actions of Erdogan’s bodyguards, the White House itself is stonewalling and refusing to answer any questions about the incident: “According to pool report, Spicer refused to issue White House comment on Erdogan’s body guards beating up Americans, deferred to State Dept.”
A follow-up report from CNN would provide updates directly from the State Department, with State condemning the attack, claiming that they’ll hold the perpetrators accountable, and confirming that Turkish government officials were directly involved in the assault:
“The US State Department said it is ‘concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel’ in a statement 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,’ the statement said. ‘We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.’ A State Department official said the Turkish security that was involved appears to be a mix of Turkish embassy and Erdogan security staff.”
None of this should surprise anyone, of course. Erdogan rules his nation as an authoritarian under a self-declared state of emergency, and he recently pulled off a constitutional referendum fraught with voter suppression and voter fraud – a referendum that consolidated his hold on power and swept aside many of the democratic structures that made modern Turkey a secular republic. Erdogan has shut down the independent press and has hammered away at Turkey’s secular constitutional framework. And of course Erdogan’s terrible treatment and oppression of the Kurds living within Turkey’s borders and of tens of thousands of other political opponents is well documented too. Erdogan continues to do great harm to the great & proud nation that he rules — his revanchist Islamism & authoritarianism is a serious problem and must be recognized as such. Excellent primers on Erdogan’s dictatorial aspirations can be found via National Review (“Erdogan’s Win Pushes Turkey Toward Dictatorship”), The Daily Beast (“Here’s How Turkey Lurched From Democracy Toward Dictatorship”), and Foreign Policy (Turkey is a Dictatorship Masquerading as a NATO Democracy”). And as I’ve written previously: “It’s high time that America stood up for the good people of Turkey and stood up against this second-rate sultan.”
Let’s be very clear: Turkey’s Erdogan thought that he could bring his version of thuggery and authoritarianism along with him into the United States without consequences. It is incumbent upon our nation’s leaders to make sure he doesn’t get away with it here — every single thug involved in assaulting peaceful protesters must be held accountable regardless of the ballyhooing over at the State Department — and this should be an event that spurs our nation into making sure that Erdogan reverses course at home as well. Speaking out against Erdogan helps. Condemning him for oppressing his people helps. Bringing these assailants to justice helps. And arming the Kurds in their fight against the Islamic State isn’t a bad start either.