DC police chief: 'We will not tolerate' attack on Turkish protesters

Metropolitan Chief of Police Peter Newsham called Tuesday's attacks on protesters at the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington “brutal.”

“Yesterday afternoon we witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protesters at the Turkish ambassador’s residence in the 1600 block of 23rd St. NW,” he said Wednesday at Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) headquarters. 

“That’s something we will not tolerate here in Washington, D.C. This is a city where people should be allowed to come and peacefully protest.”

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Newsham acknowledged that there may be a “diplomatic immunity issue” before promising accountability for those responsible for Tuesday’s incident. NBC News reported earlier Wednesday that the men who attacked the protesters are bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

“We are going to pursue anything that is within our legal powers to hold the folks that were responsible for their actions,” Newsham added. 

The police chief confirmed that 11 people and one police officer were injured in Tuesday’s commotion, with nine receiving treatment at local hospitals.

He added that authorities had arrested a New York man and charged him with aggravated assault, while a Fairfax, Va., man was arrested and charged with assault on a police officer.

A State Department spokeswoman on Wednesday criticized the incident, arguing that “violence is never an appropriate response to free speech.”

“We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” Heather Nauert said in a statement.  

According to The Associated Press, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency on Wednesday reported that Erdogan’s bodyguards and Turkish citizens "dispersed" the protestors because “police did not heed Turkish demands to intervene.” 

“What we saw yesterday – a violent attack on a peaceful demonstration – is an affront to DC values and our rights as Americans," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower (D) said in a Wednesday statement.
 
She noted that the MPD "will continue investigating the incident and will work with federal partners to ensure justice is served.”
 
Video emerged on social media Tuesday of men in black suits kicking demonstrators outside the Turkish residence protesting Erdogan’s policies.

About two dozen demonstrators were present before the skirmish, which occurred as President Trump hosted Erdogan at the White House.