WASHINGTON — The District’s police chief described a violent clash outside the residence of the Turkish ambassador as an unprovoked and brutal attack on peaceful protesters.
Peter Newsham said such behavior was “not something we will tolerate here in Washington, D.C.”
“This is a city where people should be allowed to come and peaceably protest,” Newsham said Wednesday afternoon.
Eleven people were injured, including a police officer, in the melee, which shut down Massachusetts Avenue at Sheridan Circle at the height of the afternoon rush hour, he said.
Two group of protesters were involved along with Turkish security staff.
Newsham apologized to commuters for the disruption but said that some of the injuries were “significant” and had to be treated immediately.
Nine people were taken to the hospital and later released.
Newsham also released the names of two people who have been arrested so far. But police are still working to identify others involved in the confrontation, he said.
Jalal Kheirabaoi, 42, of Fairfax, Virginia, was charged with assaulting a police officer. Ayten Necmi, 49, of Woodside, New York, was charged with aggravated assault, he said.
Newsham vowed to identify all of those involved.
“There could be a diplomatic immunity issue, but that won’t prevent us from doing what we need to do here at the Metropolitan Police Department,” Newsham said.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said the security team for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved in to disperse the protesters because “police did not heed to Turkish demands to intervene,” The Associated Press reported.
Video of the altercation shows men in suits amid the mash of protesters and police. The video also shows stunned men with bloody faces as police tackle others in the background.
Newsham said some of those at the scene were armed and complicated local police’s ability to “safely restore order,” Newsham said.
The protesters had chanted anti-Erdogan slogans as the president entered the embassy on Tuesday after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, the news agency reported.
A State Department statement confirmed the involvement of Turkish security guards.
“We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel,” the statement from spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech.”