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Turkey Protesters Say Erdogan Supporters Attacked Them in Washington


The United States is expressing concern over a clash involving protesters and supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The clash happened Tuesday in Washington, D.C., near the home of Turkey’s ambassador. Erdogan had met with President Donald Trump at the White House earlier in the day.

Parts of the clash were caught on video by VOA’s Turkish Service.

​State Department official Heather Nauert said in a statement the U.S. concerns would be communicated to the Turkish government "in the strongest possible” way.

“Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” the statement said.

VOA’s Turkish Service said the protesters were supporters of Selahattin Demirtas, a jailed pro-Kurdish lawmaker. Turkish officials arrested him in November on terrorism-related charges.

Rights groups condemned his arrest as part of a government crackdown on dissent.

The protesters said they were demonstrating peacefully until Erdogan’s guards and supporters suddenly moved toward them. Video shows men wearing dark suits and others hitting and kicking protesters. Police appeared to struggle to keep the two groups separated.

At least 11 people were injured in the violence.

Two arrests were made and Washington, D.C. police said other suspects were being sought. Police said they were checking reports that some of the attackers worked as bodyguards for the Turkish president.

A pro-Turkey demonstrator tries to rip a sign from the hands of a pro-Kurdish demonstrator outside the White House, where U.S. President Donald Trump was hosting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, May 16, 2017.
A pro-Turkey demonstrator tries to rip a sign from the hands of a pro-Kurdish demonstrator outside the White House, where U.S. President Donald Trump was hosting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, May 16, 2017.

Turkey’s embassy blamed the violence on groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group fighting the government. An embassy statement said the group had “aggressively provoked Turkish-American citizens” who had gathered to greet Erdogan.

Washington’s police chief, mayor and several U.S. lawmakers condemned the violence. Senator John McCain, a Republican, urged the Trump administration to expel the Turkish ambassador over the incident.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn adapted this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press and Reuters. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

appropriate adj. suitable or right for a particular situation

suit n. clothing consisting of pants and a jacket

dissent n. public disagreement with an official opinion

provokev. cause someone to become angry or violent

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