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US Concerned After Erdogan Supporters Clash With Protesters in Washington

Nine Hurt in Violent Demonstration at Turkish Ambassador's Residence
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Nine Hurt in Violent Demonstration at Turkish Ambassador's Residence

The U.S. State Department is expressing concern about Tuesday's violent clash involving supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a few dozen protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington.

"Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Wednesday. "We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.

Erdogan bodyguards also were involved in the scuffle that occurred on the same day the Turkish leader met with President Donald Trump at the White House. At least two people were arrested and nine people were injured.

In a statement Wednesday, Washington police said the incident outside the Turkish embassy stood "in contrast to the First Amendment rights and principles we work tirelessly to protect each and every day.

"We will continue to work with our partners at the United States State Department and the United States Service Service to identify and hold all subjects accountable for the involvement in the altercation," the statement said.

VOA's Turkish service says the protesters at the scene were Kurdish supporters calling for pro-Kurdish lawmaker Selahattin Demirtas’ release from prison.

Police barricaded the perimeter to separate the groups.

At one point, Turkish Ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic appears and shouts at one of the police officers.

Similar clashes happened last year when Erdogan visited Washington for a nuclear security summit.

Turkish Protest Outside Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.
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Republican Senator Ben Sasse, writing on Twitter, said Erdogan should "remember that this country is built on free speech, free religion, free press, and freedom to protest."