- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, pro-Kurdish supporters and free speech advocates gathered Wednesday morning outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence to deliver a message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “We will not be silenced.”

Waving flags and handmade signs, demonstrators in Northwest Washington’s Sheridan Circle returned to the scene of May 16’s brutal clash between peaceful protesters and Mr. Erdogan’s security detail, in which at least nine people were injured. The Turkish leader was returning from the White House, where he had met with President Trump, when the melee erupted.

Congressmen from both sides of the aisle delivered passionate speeches Wednesday in support of the First Amendment rights, which they say Mr. Erdogan’s security team violated.

“In a shocking show of violence, the Turkish government tried to trample on my rights and your rights and our rights,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat. “They showed their disdain for peaceful protests. They showed brutality when faced with people who disagree with them, who believe in the reality of the Armenian genocide. People who believe in the reality of freedom of religion in Turkey. People who believe in minority rights in Turkey and the security of Greece and Cyprus.”

Sheridan Circle sits outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, where Mr. Erdogan was holding a gathering during his visit in May.

Seyid Riza Dersim, a Kurdish-American flooring businessman who organized the May protest, said he and his fellow protesters were behaving peacefully, but their chants calling Mr. Erdogan “ISIS” and “a dictator” irritated the Turkish leader.

“Erdogan watched us for a bit and then called one of his guards. What Erdogan said — translated in English — was ‘attack, attack.’ So, that’s what they did,” Mr. Dersim told The Washington Times. “I was the one carrying the megaphone, and they specifically targeted me. I was on the ground, and they were kicking on my head. I lost my tooth, and several teeth are still loose. I was bruised on my face and my lips. I still have a concussion.”

He recalled the feeling of resignation that swept over him as the onslaught continued: “Each time I tried to get up, they kicked me down. Then I understood they weren’t going to let me up. I just tried to cover my head. I don’t know how long I was laying there on the floor, but later I saw two police officers who helped move me back to this area.”

Metropolitan Police have said four people have been arrested and arrest warrants have been issued for 14 others in connection with the melee. D.C. officials have not said whether they will pursue the extradition of the Turkish security officers.

Turkish officials have not release any sort of apology. Following the attack, the Turkish Embassy blamed the provocation of protesters, and said the security detail was merely responding in self-defense to an “unpermitted” demonstration.

Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, noted Wednesday that permission is not required for U.S. citizens to protest in their own country.

“The First Amendment is the most important amendment of all that we have,” Mr. Poe told the crowd. “The idea that a foreign tyrant could come to the United States, stay right over there across the street, and allow his goons to beat up Americans on American soil is preposterous. And the people that did the beating need to be held accountable. They need to have a trial, and they need to go to jail if they’re convicted — all of ‘em!”

The House last month unanimously approved Resolution 354, which condemned Turkey for the attacks and called for justice.

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