Congress is demanding that someone be held to account after Tuesday’s violent altercation between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards and protesters exercising their First Amendment right. The facts of the case are clear.
Video footage shows men in black suits, identified as members of Erdogan’s security detail, and Turkish embassy staff, kicking, punching, and pummeling Kurdish protesters outside the residence compound of the Turkish Embassy. Casually putting their earpieces back in place, the Turkish security forces then retreat back to the compound where diplomatic immunity renders them virtually invincible.
A demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in northwest Washington led to nine people being injured, and two arrested pic.twitter.com/6SQTlQAUaa— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 17, 2017
Eyewitnesses, the U.S. State Department, and even Turkish state media have corroborated what was clearly shown in the video, prompting senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee to call for criminal charges against Erdogan’s bodyguards.
“To send a clear message that these acts of violence will not be tolerated, I ask that you immediately look into this matter and bring all appropriate criminal charges before these individuals leave the United States,” writes Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) in a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior. Above all else, they should never be permitted to violate the protections afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Senate Republicans joined the chorus of condemnation, demanding action against Erdogan’s “thuggish” security detail.
This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior. https://t.co/WsIln8gOX5— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 17, 2017
President Erdogan, you would do well to remember that this country is built on free speech, free religion, free press, & freedom to protest.— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) May 17, 2017
On Wednesday, the State Department issued a statement condemning the incident with forceful language.
“We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” reads the statement.
However, the White House itself has so far refused to comment on the matter directly, deferring to the State Department instead.
According to pool report, Spicer refused to issue White House comment on Erdogan's body guards beating up Americans, deferred to State Dept— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) May 17, 2017
As CNN’s Jim Sciutto notes, the violent behavior of Erdogan’s bodyguards is “a brazen flouting of U.S. laws in the U.S. capital by a NATO ally.”
Indeed, this NATO ally has a history of roughing-up demonstrators and journalists at home and abroad.
Erdogan's bodyguards beat up Kurdish protesters in D.C. Just imagine what we are going through back in Turkey. https://t.co/4UhOfS27WJ— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) May 17, 2017
At a Brookings Institution event in Washington last March, Erdogan’s personal security detail dragged journalists across the floor, punched protesters, and assaulted event organizers with apparent impunity. Earlier, Erdogan himself made a speech at the prominent National Security summit. After the violent altercation, the think-tank vowed to never invite the Turkish president again.
Punches being thrown as a pro-Erdogan protester crosses the street pic.twitter.com/miKuUis88v— Ali Watkins (@AliWatkins) March 31, 2016
This is happening outside Brookings pic.twitter.com/dG4QQZ32xd— Yochi Dreazen (@yochidreazen) March 31, 2016
Never seen anything like this:a female protester just tackled. DC cops are in the street trying to keep Turkish guards from hurting folks— Yochi Dreazen (@yochidreazen) March 31, 2016
In front of Brookings for Turkish Pres. Erdogan speech, one of his security assaulted Brookings employee. It's crazy— paul mcleary (@paulmcleary) March 31, 2016