- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

More than 200 protesters demonstrated Wednesday in Lafayette Park against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he visited President Trump at the White House.

Several said they were perplexed by the White House’s invitation to Mr. Erdogan, who has a history of crackdowns and non-democratic policies, and whose security forces attacked protesters that last time the Turkish president visiting Washington.

“The other day the [Turkish] president threatened to release captives of [the Islamic State] into Europe. That is not the sign of a friend, that is the sign of someone who has no respect for the rule of law,” said George Horaites, a leader of the Order of American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.

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Early last month, Turkey invaded part of northern Syria to drive out Kurdish fighters, who had supported U.S. efforts to defeat the Islamic State. Turkey moved against the Kurds, who it says seek to disrupt the government, after the U.S. began withdrawing troops from the area.

The last time Mr. Erdogan visited the District in 2017, his security detail punched, beat and kicked about 15 peaceful protesters near the Turkish ambassador’s residence. D.C., congressional and State Department officials expressed outrage over the violence.

More than a dozen Erdogan bodyguards were charged with assault, but the Justice Department eventually dropped the charges against all but four, for whom charges are still pending.

Aram Hamparian, executive director Armenian National Committee of America, witnessed the violence in 2017. He said he believes Mr. Erdogan gave the signal for his bodyguards to attack.

Before Wednesday’s protest, Mr. Hamparian said he was assured by the U.S. Park Police, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Diplomatic Security Service and the Secret Service that “they would do everything possible in the law to protect protesters.”

At least 30 D.C. police officers, some on horses and bikes, were visible at Lafayette Park, across from the White House.

Seyid Riza, 62, left the 2017 protest with a bloody face, a broken nose and missing teeth, so he came to Wednesday’s protest wearing a hard hat. He said he is seeing a psychiatrist and a neurologist for his injuries.

“Imagine, Erdogan, if he has the gall to do that in the heart of Washington, D.C., in the area with all of those embassies, imagine what he does in Turkey and Kurdistan,” Mr. Riza said.

The protesters called for international recognition of the Kurds and for the U.S. government to levy sanctions to curb Turkey’s aggression.

Mr. Hamparian asked for U.S. officials to create “authentic American policy.”

“Instead, you have a policy that’s set in Ankara, exported to the U.S. and enforced by U.S. presidents and we would like to see that end,” he said.

Following Mr. Trump and Erdgoan’s White House meeting, protesters marched toward the Turkish ambassador’s house in anticipation of Mr. Erdogan’s arrival.

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