Standing on the site of a recent violent altercation between protesters and bodyguards of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, members of Congress from both parties condemned what they said was an assault on American values and demanded an apology from the Turkish leader for flouting U.S. law.
“We will not stop until the dictatorship that’s being formed in Turkey is defeated,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who has faced criticism from both sides for defending Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Rohrabacher spoke along with Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, Jim Costa, D-Calif., John Sarbanes, D-Md., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., at an event organized by the Armenian National Committee of America and Sheridan Circle May 16.
“I join with each and every one of you here this morning for a principle that is the cornerstone of America, and that is our First Amendment rights — our freedom of speech, our freedom of assembly, our freedom to protest,” Costa said. “And on May 16, those freedoms were violated — they were violated, sadly, by security guards of the Turkish government.”
In May, during Erdogan’s official visit to Washington, Erdogan supporters and members of his security detail clashed with protesters near the Turkish ambassador’s residence at Sheridan Circle in Washington’s Embassy Row. The incident sent nine people to the hospital. D.C. Metropolitan Police chief Peter Newsham called it a “brutal attack.”
“As an American citizen, I was violated from exercising (my) First Amendment right of freedom of speech,” said Sayid Reza Yasa, one of the protesters injured.
The State Department said in a statement following the incident that it was communicating its concerns to Turkey in “the strongest possible terms.” The Turkish Embassy said Erdogan’s bodyguards were provoked by demonstrators and acted in self-defense.
In June, the House passed a resolution condemning the violence, 397-0.
Poe said that wasn’t enough. He said the Turkish nationals who were involved should be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial.
“The idea that a foreign tyrant can come to the United States … and allow his goons to beat up Americans on American soil is preposterous,” Poe said. “And that person that did the beating needs to held accountable, they need to have a trial, and they need to go to jail if they’re convicted.”
In June, D.C. law enforcement officials announced they were charging 12 members of Erdogan’s security detail and that arrest warrants had been issued.