Perhaps unaccustomed to America’s tradition of free and unfettered expression, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bodyguards reacted like animals when confronted by protesters demonstrating near D.C.’s “embassy row” on Tuesday. Photos and videos of the scene reveal a disturbing melee between Turkish thugs and demonstrators. Washington D.C.’s police chief called it a “brutal attack,” and it was.
Young women were thrown to the ground and beaten by Erdoğan’s security staff. Demonstrators were kicked in the face. Turkish security resisted police directives in a seeming effort to injure as many protesters as they could. In the end, eleven people were hurt, including a police officer. Nine people were hospitalized, and two were arrested.
This is hardly the first incident of violence on American soil perpetrated by those loyal to the thug in Ankara. In March of 2016, Erdoğan traveled to Washington to attend a summit on nuclear security. He stopped by the Brookings Institution to deliver a highly anticipated speech. There, the Turkish president was met with protesters, but Turkish governmental security did not distinguish between protesters and passers-by when meting out violence.
“Never seen anything like this,” wrote Vox.com correspondent Yochi Dreazen at the time. “A female protester just tackled. DC cops are in the street trying to keep Turkish guards from hurting folks.” Foreign Policy’s Paul McLeary reported that one of the security guards assaulted a Brookings employee. Reporters filed dispatches in which they described Turkish security verbally and physically assaulting them. “People shouting in the streets don’t know what’s going on in Turkey,” Erdoğan said dismissively of the event, conflating the protesters with Kurdish sympathizers. “The international community doesn’t even label terrorists ‘terrorists’ these days.”
Outside the United Nations in New York City in 2011, Erdoğan’s bodyguards allegedly attacked United Nations security personnel when Erdoğan tried to enter the general assembly to witness a controversial address by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. An account of the attack authored by UN staff union’s Timothy Kennedy and addressed to the head of security at Turtle Bay, recalled how Turkish authorities “shoved many officers, fraudulently utilized ministerial IDs, and assaulted at least one of our officers.”
Erdoğan’s staff clearly has about as much respect for American freedoms as they do Turkish liberties. There is no reason that America’s diplomatic establishment has to tolerate this behavior from the increasingly autocratic Erdoğan government, but the Trump administration seems no less interested in responding to this insult than did the Obama administration. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department announced. If this is all the indignation the United States can summon, Erdogan’s thugs will continue to abuse American hospitality.