Group of GOP Senator Joins Chorus of Condemnation over Brutal Attack of Protesters
WASHINGTON—Senator John McCain, one of the leading foreign policy voices in Congress, on Thursday urged the expulsion of Turkey’s U.S. ambassador after pro-Turkish groups brutally attacked protesters during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to DC. It was later revealed that members of Erdogan’s security team were involved in the bloody violence.
“We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America … This kind of thing cannot go unresponded to diplomatically,” McCain, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC in an interview on Thursday, adding that legal action could also be pursued.
McCain had earlier tweeted about the incident calling the attack “thuggish behavior. “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior,” McCain added in his Twitter post.
The U.S. State Department summoned the Turkish Ambassador in Washington Serdar Kılıç on May 17 after the attack outside the Turkish diplomatic mission, according to various sources, relaying their “strongest possible” concern over the event.
Meanwhile, a group of Republican senators on Wednesday joined the chorus of condemnation of the brutal attack on demonstrators in Washington by Erdogan’s security team.
“We strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington,” the Republican senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Lee said in a statement.
“Reports indicate that some Turkish officials were involved in assaulting protesters, which violates the most basic rules of democracy and is an affront to the United States and the value we place on the right to free speech, as embodied in our Constitution. We call upon the Turkish government to apologize immediately for the involvement of any officials,” the statement continued.
Senator Ben Cardin also urged Turkey to apologize.
“The Turkish government owes an apology; perhaps they forgot we have unalienable rights in this country,” Cardin tweeted.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce on Wednesday sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging them to examine charges against those responsible.
“Numerous news reports indicate these individuals were members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail who accompanied him on his official state visit this week. Alarmingly, this behavior is indicative of the broad crackdowns on political activists, journalists and religious freedom in Turkey that have greatly harmed Turkish democracy in recent years,” said Royce in his letter.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee also voiced his strong condemnation of the attack, saying that while assaults on freedom of speech, the press, and free assembly have become tragically commonplace in Erdogan’s Turkey, such acts do not have a place in the United States.
“On Tuesday, President Trump hosted Turkish President Erdogan at the White House. Casting aside concerns about human rights abuses and the suppression of free speech in Turkey, President Trump lavished praise on this increasingly autocratic leader. President Trump’s embrace of Erdogan is another in the line of similarly warm embrace of autocrats around the globe,” Schiff wrote on Facebook.
“Just hours after the meeting at the White House, Erdogan’s security detail violently assaulted Kurdish, Armenian, Ezidi and other peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence. While we’re still learning details about what occurred, disturbing videos show members of Erdogan’s security team turning on the protesters. The Administration has thus far been conspicuously silent on this incident, but it cannot go unanswered. There must be consequences for the individuals who attacked protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, and they should be identified and questioned before they leave the country,” added Schiff.
“Assaults on freedom of speech, the press, and free assembly have become tragically commonplace in Erdogan’s Turkey. We must ensure that never becomes the case here at home,” said Schiff.
On Thursday, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus, sent a letter to President Trump asking his administration to condemn the attacks by Turkish security forces on protesters at the Turkish embassy.
“What is now needed is a clear signal from you that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, especially in light of your Administration’s support of the Erdogan regime. In the wake of a referendum last month that consolidated President Erdogan’s power – a result which was questioned by election observers in Turkey – and included intimidation and violence toward Erdogan opponents leading up to the vote, you personally called to congratulate President Erdogan. You have also been supportive of his efforts to suppress the Kurds in Turkey. You met personally with Mr. Erdogan on the same morning this abuse occurred, and according to media accounts, no mention was made of Erdogan’s human rights abuses,” Pallone told Trump in his letter.
“Neither you nor your White House staff has made any comment about the attack. It needs to be made explicitly clear, from the highest level of our government, that bullying and brutality towards peaceful protesters will not be tolerated in this country – even from visiting heads of state. It also needs to be assured that your White House staff will comply fully with efforts to identify Turkish security forces who violated U.S. law, and allow justice to be pursued unfettered,” added Pallone.
“Our Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly and speech. Those rights cannot be trampled by an abusive foreign leader or his security personnel. I look forward to a more robust response from your Administration on this incident, and I thank you for your consideration,” concluded Pallone.
Also on Thursday, California Republican congressman Jim Costa issued a statement regarding Tuesday’s brutal attack.
“Given Turkey’s movement towards an authoritarian government, President Erdoğan’s visit with the President in the West Wing is unsettling. President Erdoğan’s recent elimination of individual freedoms and jailing members of the press should not be rewarded by a visit to the Oval Office,” said Costa.
“To add injury to insult, it appears that a contingent of President Erdoğan’s security team unilaterally took violent action against peaceful demonstrators who were raising awareness of Turkey’s violations of human rights. The Turkish security guards clearly attacked the Armenian, Kurdish, Yezidi, and other human rights demonstrators, sending nine to the hospital,” added Costa.
“Sadly, it appears that history may be repeating itself. Many of us in recent weeks have seen the movie “The Promise,” which is an accurate historical portrayal of the Armenian genocide that took place beginning in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In the movie, we witnessed the beginnings of these acts of atrocity with the depiction of young, Turkish men beating innocent people. As we know, modern-day Turkey has been unwilling as a country to acknowledge the genocide ever happened. We cannot allow Tuesday’s violent and illegal behavior by the Turkish security guards to go unaddressed,” stressed Costa. “The actions of the Turkish security guards are outrageous, and I condemn them. They violate both American law and deeply-held American values. The Turkish security guards must be held accountable.
“Our American President should take appropriate diplomatic and legal action against these Turkish thugs for their violence towards the Armenian, Kurdish, Yezidi, and other human rights demonstrators. If he does so, I believe he will find overwhelming bipartisan support in the US Congress,” urged Costa.