At least one protester was roughed up while being escorted out of an event featuring the Turkish president in New York. This follows a number of violent incidents during President Erdogan’s visits to the United States in recent years.
The incident happened during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech at an event organized by the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC) in New York on Thursday. The video appears to show that it was members of the audience, rather than security personnel, who hit the demonstrator.
Having observed the incident, Erdogan told the audience in Turkish to “not give this beautiful gathering to a few impertinent hall terrorists,” according to MEDIAite’s translation.
Five individuals were detained by Erdogan’s security detail at the event in New York, CNN cited Tiffany Phillips of the New York Police Department as saying on Thursday. She added that no arrests were made.
However, it was not immediately clear whether it was Erdogan’s own security detail that escorted the men out.
“At this time, it does not appear that Turkish security officials were involved in this incident,” the State Department said Thursday, according to CBS News.
The host group TASC initially blamed the US Secret Service for the rough treatment of the protesters, claiming in a statement that “The US secret service arrested four YPG supporters for trespass and disturbing the event,” and assuming that the demonstrators in New York supported Kurdish militia in Syria.
But the Secret Service denied any involvement in the incident, CBS News reported.
TASC later issued another statement, thanking “hotel security and professional private security company for restoring the safety of our private event.”
There was no immediate indication that any of the protesters threatened the security of the event. One of the demonstrators was reported to have yelled at Erdogan, “Get out of my country!”
A number of Erdogan’s previous visits to the United States were also accompanied by reports of violence or harassment toward protesters and some journalists.
In May, a US grand jury indicted 15 Turkish security officials for attacking peaceful pro-Kurdish demonstrators. The incident took place outside the house of the Turkish ambassador to the US, where Erdogan was staying during a visit to Washington, DC.
During the incident in May, Erdogan watched as his bodyguards beat the protesters across the street. They were “insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting,” the Turkish president said in New York this week. He went on to call the demonstrators “terrorists.”
On Monday, the US State Department withdrew permission for a US arms manufacturer to sell $1.2 million worth of weapons to the Turkish president’s security guards, following pressure from Congress to scrap the deal over the violence in Spring.
“We’re not going to let Erdogan’s bodyguards attack peaceful American protesters – and we’re certainly not going to sell them weapons to do it,” Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said Monday.
Rep. Dave Trott (R-Michigan) said the deal “would have been nothing short of an endorsement of their brutal attack.”
“This withdrawal finally points a finger in Erdogan’s chest and tells him a strategic location does not place Turkey above the law,” Trott said in a statement.
Last April, Erdogan’s security detail tried to remove a journalist from an event at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC where the Turkish president was due to speak. Brookings staff intervened so that the journalist could stay, as he was credentialed to be at the event.
In 2011, Erdogan’s security detail beat a UN security guard after he refused to allow the Turkish president to enter the General Assembly hall of the United Nations in New York through the wrong entrance.
The UN guard was taken to the hospital with a rib injury. The organization later called the incident an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”