Shocking video footage depicting an altercation outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., surfaced on Twitter and Facebook late Tuesday evening appearing to show protesters being attacked by guards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to the Washington Post, local authorities are attempting to identify guards who may have instigated the violence. The melee resulted in nine injuries and two arrests.
The State Department expressed concern in a press release Wednesday afternoon:
We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protestors and Turkish security personnel Tuesday evening. Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest.
We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.
Footage tweeted by Voice of America depicts a dramatic scene, with armed Turkish guards appearing to attack protesters, even kicking them as they were lying on the ground:
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
Local police are seen struggling to stop the violence, resorting to using batons and shoving the attackers.
NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell confirmed that the men attacking the protesters were part of the President Erdoğan’s security detail:
US officials confirm to NBC News men who beat protesters outside Turkish Embassy in DC are Pres. Erdogan's bodyguards https://t.co/jaxfflCu7G
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) May 17, 2017
A statement from Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser harshly condemned the attack:
“What we saw yesterday — a violent attack on a peaceful demonstration — is an affront to DC values and our rights as Americans. I strongly condemn these actions and have been briefed by Chief Newsham on our response. The Metropolitan Police Department will continue investigating the incident and will work with federal partners to ensure justice is served.”
The altercation came during the middle of an already controversial visit between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Erdoğan. A recent referendum in Turkey allowed Erdoğan to consolidate power, bringing the country closer to authoritarianism. Trump has been hotly criticized for hosting the Turkish president after the referendum.
Due to concerns related to diplomatic immunity, it’s unclear how the responsible parties will be held accountable, or if they will at all.