Nine people were injured and two arrested during a demonstration Tuesday outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, District of Columbia police said.
The altercation occurred just hours after President Trump met with the Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck says the altercation broke out between two groups but he didn’t elaborate on the circumstances. He says two people were arrested, including one who was charged with assaulting a police officer.
It appeared to start as a demonstration in support of the Turkish government, WUSA-TV photojournalist Kurt Brooks reported. He said he witnessed at least one person sitting on the ground in handcuffs.
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Brooks said he saw people waving the Turkish flag outside the embassy, but also saw several signs torn up.
Doug Buchanan, a DC Fire and EMS spokesman, says two of those hurt were seriously injured and were taken to hospitals by ambulance.
Police closed off the area around the embassy while they investigated.
The incident came as Trump extended a warm welcome to Erdogan, an authoritarian-style leader who had a strained relationship with the previous US administration.
“We’ve had a great relationship and we will make it even better,” Trump said in the Oval Office as he sat beside Erdogan. “We look forward to having very strong and solid discussions.”
Despite Trump’s greeting to the Turkish leader, the relationship has been strained by the United States’ refusal to extradite a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, whom Erdogan blames for orchestrating a July coup attempt against him.
And the two countries are at odds over Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish militias that are helping in the fight to rout ISIS from its Syrian stronghold in Raqqa. Turkey sees these militias as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist group in the United States, Turkey and Europe.
Turkey, a NATO member, is a vital ally in the fight against ISIS, allowing the United States to use its Incirlik air base in the fight against the terror group.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote Trump on Tuesday, asking him to raise the issue of human rights with Erdogan given the increasing suppression of dissent in his country. They cited the weakening of democratic institutions, stifling of fundamental human rights, mass arrests and civil society restrictions that have been taking place even before a constitutional referendum in April gave Erdogan increased powers and extended his time in office.
But in the meeting, Trump didn’t appear to touch on any of the disagreements, and instead praised Turkey’s efforts in the war against ISIS and for its fight against internal terrorist attacks. He stressed that the United States would “offer our support to Turkey” in its fight against terrorism and that they would “reinvigorate our trade and commercial ties.”
“These are areas where we can rebuild our relationship,” Trump said.
The Associated Press/USA Today /CNN