WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Nine people were taken to the hospital and two others were arrested after a violent confrontation between supporters and opponents of the visiting Turkish President in Northwest Washington Tuesday afternoon.
The fighting broke out after Turkish President Recep Erdogan had visited U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.
After meeting with Trump, Erdogan went to the home of the Turkish Ambassador at 23rd St. NW & Sheridan Circle. Two dueling demonstrations took place there.
One included many people from Turkey who support Erdogan, and the other included Kurds and Armenians who oppose his human rights record.
Police were keeping the protesters apart when – in a moment each side is blaming the other for – people crossed the buffer zone and fights broke out.
WARNING: The video below contains graphic images.
“We weren’t doing anything wrong,” said pro-Erdogan demonstrator Mustafa Dikilitas. “We just celebrated our President.”
“One of the YPG supporters ran across, picked up a megaphone, and hit a Turkish citizen with it,” said pro-Erdogan demonstrator Busra Eren, referring to the Kurdish militia group YPG.
Demonstrators on the other side tell a different story.
“All of the sudden they just ran towards us,” said Yazidi Kurd demonstrator Lucy Usoyan.
ABC7 News interviewed Usoyan outside George Washington University Hospital, where she was waiting to be treated for a head injury from a man she says attacked her and left her woozy.
“Someone was beating me in the head nonstop,” she said. “And I thought, ‘okay I’m on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?’”
The executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which provided ABC7 News video showing multiple fights and injuries, said the pro-Erdogan side was peaceful except for one group of men.
“They knew what they were doing, and they had the boldness to cross a police line and beat up a bunch of peaceful protesters in Washington, DC,” Aram Hamparian said.
Of the nine people DC Fire says were taken to the hospital, two had what were described as significant injuries. DC Police say none of the injuries are life-threatening.
Police say two people were arrested. Ayten Necmi, 49, of Woodside, New York was charged with aggravated assault and Jalal Kheirabaoi, 42, of Fairfax was charged with assault on a police officer. Police say the officer was not seriously hurt.
On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released the following statement on the incident:
“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.”