A group of people protesting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s US visit were attacked outside the ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC on Tuesday, according to videos posted on social media and Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
Hamparian told Grasswire the scuffle broke out about 10 minutes after the protest began at 4 p.m. Busra Eren, who was demonstrating in favor of Erdogan, told ABC News affiliate WJLA that one of the protesters “ran across, picked up a megaphone, and hit a Turkish citizen with it.”
At least nine people were injured in the altercation and two arrested, including one of the protesters.
Update May 18
Video has emerged showing President Erdogan in his car overlooking the attack on protestors.
At 0:42 we hear one of Erdoğan's bodyguards watching the fight saying "We're coming out of it well, honestly." Erdoğan exits car unimpressed https://t.co/PVgc33Lq2Y
— Ankaralı Jan (@06JAnk) May 18, 2017
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 18, 2017
In a statement on Wednesday, DC’s Metropolitan Police said they intended to pursue charges against individuals involved in the altercation.
MPD Statement regarding incident outside Turkish Embassy yesterday pic.twitter.com/ELRi0szlrA
— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) May 17, 2017
Hamparian said he didn’t see what provoked the incident, but noted that some reports have blamed a sign or something said over a megaphone.
“To my eyes that looked like a large group of large men who were prepared, who crossed the police line and attacked people in a circle,” he told Grasswire.
Grasswire cannot independently verify what started the incident. From analysis of videos shared on social media it appears an anti-Turkey protester struck at least one person in the Turkish group during an initial altercation between the two sides, but we cannot say with certainty that this initiated the altercation.
The initial scuffle was followed by a wider melee, during which people from the Turkish group broke through the police lines, crossed Massachusetts Avenue and attacked people inside Sheridan Circle.
Hamparian said some of the men who attacked protesters were armed, and appeared to be embassy security or members of Erdogan’s own security detail. Other media reports have characterized them as bodyguards.
On Wednesday afternoon the State Department said it would be “communicating our concern to Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.”
The Turkish embassy has not responded to Grasswire’s request for comment. In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the embassy blamed the protesters for the violence.
“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.”
Turkish Embassy in Washington statement
A spokesperson for DC’s Metropolitan Police Department told Grasswire that permits aren’t required: “I would simply respond that while some groups choose to acquire a permit, MPD does not require permits to exercise First Amendment rights.”
“I’ve seen brawls happen between people who don’t know how to fight,” Hamparian said. “The guys across that line looked like they were trained.”
Regardless, Hamparian believes the men were ordered to attack protesters. “I don’t think someone sent to guard the president would lose their cool,” he added.
One demonstrator, Lucy Usoyan, is seen in the video being thrown to the ground and then apparently kicked multiple times. Hamparian said she spent four or five hours in the emergency room on Tuesday and will undergo additional tests.
“She said to me [later], ‘why did they keep kicking me?'” Hamparian said.
Another woman filmed with a man’s arm around her neck told Hamparian that her assaulter said in Turkish, “I’m going to kill you.”
— Konstantin Krammer (@KonstantinKlug) May 17, 2017
In addition to Usoyan, Hamparian told Grasswire that six or seven protesters were taken to George Washington University hospital, while another woman with more serious injuries was taken to Georgetown hospital.
The other woman suffered a seizure during the melee, according to Hamparian. Her seizure was captured on his video of the events. As of Wednesday morning he had been unable to follow up on her condition.
In an interview with WJLA at the hospital, Usoyan said the assailants had run the protesters without warning. “All of the sudden they just ran towards us,” she said. “Someone was beating me in the head nonstop.”
Video taken by Hamparian at the scene shows Usoyan on the ground being attended by a woman who says medics had been called. Usoyan appears dazed and unable to communicate her possible injuries.
The VOA video shows her being assaulted.
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 16, 2017
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 17, 2017
Erdogan in DC
Posted by ANCA on Tuesday, May 16, 2017