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Violence Erupts Outside Turkish Residence In Washington During Erdogan Visit


Violent clashes erupted outside the Turkish ambassador's home in Washington during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the U.S. capital to meet President Donald Trump, injuring nine people and leading to two arrests, local authorities say.

The altercation broke out in the afternoon on May 16, when a group of protesters that included Armenians and Kurds say they were attacked by Erdogan supporters, including members of the Turkish leader's own security detail.

Members of the pro-Turkey delegation, meanwhile, accused the protesters of provoking the clash, during which several men wearing suits and others in more casual clothing repeatedly punched and kicked protesters while they lay on the ground.

Police scrambled to contain the violence but were unable to restrain several people involved.

Washington police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said that two people were arrested in connection with the violence, one of whom was charged with assaulting a police officer. He said two groups of people were involved in the skirmish but declined to elaborate further.

Video of the incident showed a handcuffed man in a suit sitting on the ground.

Doug Buchanan, a local fire- and emergency-services spokesman, said two of the nine people hurt in the incident suffered serious injuries and were taken to the hospital.

The incident unfolded the same day that Erdogan and Trump held talks at the White House, a meeting that came amid continuing bilateral tensions on a range of issues, including Washington's recent agreement to arm Kurdish militia fighters in Syria that Ankara links to terrorists.

A local Washington affiliate of the U.S. network NBC reported that Erdogan was inside the ambassador's residence in northwestern Washington at the time of the clashes, and members of the pro-Turkish group said they had come to greet the visiting president.

The protesters included supporters of Turkey's pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, as well as Armenian-Americans.

Armenia demands that Turkey take responsibility for the massacre of at least 1 million ethnic Armenians during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, which Armenia and many other countries label as "genocide."

Turkey admits many Christian Armenians were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces, but denies the killings were orchestrated and constituted a genocide.

Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America, said in a video he shot from the scene of the brawl that people he presumed to be Erdogan supporters "stormed the street" to attack "peaceful" protesters and "left many, many people bloodied."

"It's one thing for there to be this kind of violence in Turkey, that's a terrible thing. It's far worse for that violence to be exported to America," Hamparian added in an interview with local television.

One woman interviewed by local television claimed she was put in a headlock by a member of Erdogan's security detail.

"I was so afraid and angry, of course, because we're in the United States. They cannot just attack the woman or any person," the woman, whose name was not given, said in the interview.

Pro-Turkey demonstrator Busra Eren, referring to the acronym for the Kurdish militia that the Trump administration has agreed to arm, said that "one of the YPG supporters ran across, picked up a megaphone, and hit a Turkish citizen with it."

Gunay Evinch, a Washington-based attorney of Turkish heritage, told a local affiliate of the CBS network that the anti-Erdogan protesters charged at the pro-Turkey rally.

"Those provocateurs were successful in getting exactly what they wanted, which was to be responded to," he said.

Lucy Usoyan, a Yazidi Kurd demonstrator, said that the Erdogan supporters suddenly "just ran toward us."

"Someone was beating me in the head nonstop, and I thought, 'Okay, I'm on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?'" she told ABC television.

The State Department declined to comment on the incident.

In March 2016, Erdogan's bodyguards clashed with protesters and journalists in Washington outside of the Brookings Institution think tank, where he delivered a foreign-policy speech.

With reporting by VOA, AP, AFP, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Wusa9.com, and CBS News
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