On Tuesday, May 16th, in an appalling display of brute force, Kurdish and Armenian peaceful protesters were attacked outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC. It was a very small protest, only 14 people. Some were members of the Armenian National Committee of America and supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). They were protesting President Erdogan’s repression of the Kurdish and Armenian communities and his crackdown on internal dissent, including journalists. It was remarkable to watch that very same thuggish behavior right on the streets of Washington DC.
The attackers were securing for the Turkish Embassy, and then the president’s own bodyguards joined in. A careful examination of the video footage shows that Erdogan, who remained in his car watching the melee, actually ordered his guards to join the attack. Video footage also shows the appalling scene of peaceful protesters being punched and kicked by the suited men as local DC police, obviously unprepared, tried to quell the violence but failed to arrest most of the attackers. One protester was arrested; nine were injured and had to be transported to a hospital. Of the attackers, one was arrested and the two others, members of Erdogan’s team, were arrested but then skipped out and left the country.
After watching the footage, an angry Senator John McCain called for the Turkish ambassador to be removed and for the individuals who “performed these unlawful acts of beating people up” to be identified and charged. His anger did not go unheard, because Ambassador John Bass has been summoned back to Ankara, Turkey, but the damaged to freedom of speech has been done. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser blasted the violent attack as “an affront to DC values and our rights as Americans” and called for an investigation and justice to be served. People have taken Twitter by storm, demanding that Erdogan’s bodyguards be fired and arrested.
It is appalling that such a blatant attack against nonviolent protesters and their first amendment rights took place in our nation’s capital.
CODEPINK makes the following call:
The attackers must be held accountable for their actions. Diplomatic immunity should not be allowed to shield Erdogan’s security forces.
We call for a review of the response by the DC police, as it appears that they let most of the attackers get away instead of arresting them. CODEPINK finds that all too often, the DC police fail to protect the rights of protesters, as during the yearly AIPAC conferences.
If the original protesters agree, CODEPINK would like to show solidarity and participate in a new, much larger protest at the Turkish Embassy to show our objection to the authoritarian Turkish government and to prove that here in our nation’s capital, we--with the support of the police--are determined to exercise our first amendment rights.